The UGC had told the top court that its July 6 directive, asking universities and colleges to conduct final year exams by September 30 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is "not a diktat" but states cannot take decision to confer degrees without holding the examinations.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict on Friday on the pleas challenging the decision of UGC asking universities and colleges to conduct final year exams by September 30 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, which had reserved its verdict on the issue on August 18, will pronounce the judgement.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) had told the top court that its July 6 directive, asking universities and colleges to conduct final year exams by September 30 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is “not a diktat” but states cannot take decision to confer degrees without holding the examinations. It had told the court that the directive is for the “benefit of students” as the universities have to start admissions to postgraduate courses and state authorities cannot override the UGC’s guideline.
The top court had observed that the issue is if the state disaster management authority has decided that the situation is not conducive for holding exams, can they overrule the UGC. It had said that another issue is whether the commission can override state authorities and ask the universities to hold examinations on given dates.
The apex court was earlier told by one of the petitioners that nobody is against the university examinations in “normal times” and the students are challenging the UGC’s decision because of the pandemic. The UGC had said that final examination is a ‘crucial step’ in the academic career of a student and the state government cannot say that its July 6 directive was ‘not binding’.
Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena, is one of the petitioners in the apex court and has questioned the UGC’s directive to hold examinations during the pandemic times. The UGC had earlier said that the July 6 guidelines are based on recommendations of experts and have been made after due deliberation and it is wrong to claim that it will not be possible to conduct the final examinations in terms of the guidelines.
On August 10, the UGC had questioned the decisions of Delhi and Maharashtra governments to cancel final year exams of state universities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they were against the rules. The Solicitor General had earlier informed the bench that out of over 800 universities in the country, 209 have completed the examinations while around 390 universities are in the process of conducting exams.
The UGC had said that in June this year, considering the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it requested the expert committee to revisit the April 29 guidelines, by which it had asked the universities and institutions to hold final year examinations in July 2020.
The expert committee submitted a report recommending that terminal semester/final year examinations should be conducted by universities/ institutions by the end of September, 2020 in offline (pen & paper)/ online/ blended (online + offline) mode, the UGC had said. It added that this report of the expert committee was deliberated and approved by the UGC in its emergent meeting held on July 6, since the conduct of the final year/terminal examination is a time-sensitive issue.
Assailing the decisions of some states like Maharashtra and Delhi of cancelling the final year exams, the UGC had said such decisions directly affect the standards of higher education and will be an encroachment on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education that is exclusively reserved for Parliament under Schedule VII of the Constitution.