The CBSE had on April 14 announced cancellation of class 10 exams and postponement of class 12 exams in view of the surge in coronavirus cases.
The Supreme Court Friday said it would hear on May 31 a plea seeking directions to cancel the class 12 exams of the CBSE and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) amidst the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. “Be optimistic. May be by Monday (May 31), some resolution will be there,” a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari told the petitioner.
Justice Maheshwari observed that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is likely to take a call on the issue on June 1. The plea, filed by petitioner Mamta Sharma, has also sought directions to devise an “objective methodology” to declare the result of class 12 within a specific time frame. At the outset, the bench asked Sharma whether she has served the copy of the plea to the advocate representing the CBSE.
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When the petitioner said she will serve the copy of the plea to the parties, the bench observed, “You do it. We will have it on Monday (May 31)”. “We permit the petitioner-in-person to serve advance copy on the standing counsel for the respondent(s), namely, central agency, CBSE, ICSE and also the office of the Attorney General for India,” the bench said in its order, adding, “List this matter on Monday, i.e. May 31, 2021 at 11 AM.” The petition has arrayed the Centre, the CBSE and the CISCE as respondents in the matter. During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the counsel representing the CISCE told the bench that since the apex court is hearing the matter, the high courts should not deal with it.
“Nothing will happen till Monday,” the bench said. When the petitioner told the bench that the top court can take suo motu cognisance on the issue, the bench said it would take up the matter on May 31. The CBSE had on April 14 announced cancellation of class 10 exams and postponement of class 12 exams in view of the surge in coronavirus cases.
The Ministry of Education had recently sought detailed suggestions from the states and Union Territories till May 25 on the proposals discussed in a high-level meeting held on the issue. The CBSE has proposed conducting the exams between July 15-August 26 and the result to be declared in September.
The board also proposed two options: conducting regular exams for 19 major subjects at notified centres or conducting shorter duration exams at respective schools where students are enrolled. The plea filed in the apex court has contended that due to the unprecedented health emergency and surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, it is not possible to conduct the examination and any further delay would cause irreparable loss to the future of students.
“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination (either offline/online/blended) in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.
“It cannot be legitimately expected from the respondents to remain a mute spectator over the current situation and not to take a timely decision in respect of examination and declaration of result of more than 12 lakh students of class XII,” it said.
The plea has also sought setting aside of the notifications, issued last months by the CBSE and the CISCE, only in respect of the clauses dealing with postponement of class 12 examinations. The petition said it is the utmost duty of the state to take care of the health and safety of students and at the same time, not to hamper their higher education and career prospects. It said the COVID-19 situation is more severe in comparison to last year and the respondents should adopt the same criteria of assessing the grading/marks of class 12 students as done last year. It also referred to the June 26 last order passed by the apex court which had approved the schemes of CBSE and CISCE for cancellations of remaining board examinations scheduled from July 1 to 15 last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also approved their formula for assessment of examinees.
The plea claimed it is the duty of respondents to issue similar direction, as was approved by the top court last year. It said the apex court may exercise its plenary power under Article 142 of the Constitution to direct the respondents to implement the same methodology as being adopted for class 10 to declare the result and cancel the class 12 exam.