The UPSC has told the Supreme Court that there is no provision for holding re-examination in case a candidate fails to appear in the test on the scheduled date for any reasons, including ailment or accident incapacitating him to take the exam.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has filed an affidavit in the apex court which is hearing a plea by three aspirants who had cleared the UPSC-2021 prelims exam but could not appear in all papers of the main exam after testing positive for COVID-19 and are now seeking an extra attempt to appear in the exams.
The UPSC said that any decision regarding age relaxation and compensatory/extra attempt in the civil services examination is a “policy matter” which falls under the domain of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoP&T).
“The Commission usually holds 13 examinations apart from several recruitment tests during a year. In respect of these examinations, there is no provision for holding re-examination in case a candidate(s) fails to appear in the examination on the schedule date(s) for any reason including any ailment/accident incapacitating him or her to take the examination,” it said.
“In past, the Commission has not held any re-examination under similar circumstances,” it said.
The affidavit said the UPSC conducts the civil services examination strictly in accordance with the rules of examination framed annually by the Government of India in the DoP&T.
It said over the years, a cycle has evolved involving recruitment, training and final appointment ensuring that the government gets its requisite manpower on time and any disruption at any stage has the potential of upsetting the entire cycle not only for once but likely to have “cascading effects in future as well”.
The Commission said the matter of compensatory/ extra attempt has been adjudicated by the apex court in the past against the plea of hardships faced by the aspirants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the same was not granted.
It said the civil services main (written) examination 2021 was successfully conducted at 24 centres (cities/towns) on the schedule dates from January 7, 2022 to January 16, 2022 throughout the country following due COVID-19 protocols, which did not mandate making any separate arrangement for COVID infected candidates.
The Commission said in order to perform its constitutional obligations to supply manpower to the government in a timely manner to fill the vacancies in the crucial positions, it is imperative that the UPSC follows its schedule of examinations which are prepared well in advance.
“If the Commission is to make a provision for re-examination, it will hardly be possible for it to complete its any examination on time. This will entail complete derailment of the schedule of post-examination activities of a particular examination but will also have cascading effects on the schedules of other ongoing examinations as well as other exams to follow,” the affidavit said.
“In fact, accommodating such requests will lead to a chaotic situation where no examination can be completed on schedule, as a result of which vacancies in government will remain unfilled for an indefinite period and the aspirants of the Commission’s examinations will also remain in limbo as to when the results will be declared or when the next advertisement for recruitment will be issued,” the UPSC said.
It said the prayers made in the petition pertain to core aspects of eligibility which are well delineated in the rules framed by the DoP&T in consultation with the UPSC.
“In the circumstances, DoP&T is also a stake holder in the process of conduct of civil services exam. Consequently, the views and stand of the DoP&T also may be considered in the interest of justice on the issues raised in writ petition,” it said.
The Centre had on Monday told the apex court that the call regarding extra attempt to appear in the UPSC examination will have to be taken by the DoP&T.
The top court is scheduled to hear the matter on March 25. While two of the three petitioners had to leave the main exam, held from January 7 to 16, in-between after appearing in some initial papers, the third aspirant could not appear in any of the papers due to COVID.
The petitioners, in their plea filed through advocate Shashank Singh, have said that they tested positive for COVID-19 in the RTPCR test reports dated January 13, 14 and January 6.
The plea has said the petitioners could not take the UPSC mains examination after testing positive for COVID-19 and owing to the restrictions imposed under the strict quarantine guidelines of the government.
“Also, there was absence of any kind of policy of UPSC which could provide arrangements for such petitioners who were COVID positive during the span of mains examination or before it,” it said.
“The petitioners are approaching this court under Article 32 and seeking a direction to the Respondent/ UPSC to extend them an additional (extra) attempt to appear in the examination or in alternate, make some arrangement to appear in the rest of papers which the petitioners could not give before the publication of result of civil service mains examination 2021,” the plea said.
It claimed that absence of policy and no arrangement to accommodate COVID-19 positive petitioners to appear in the civil service mains examination 2021 have violated their rights, including that of under Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution of India.