New Delhi: The Centre Friday told the Supreme Court that it is agreeable to give an extra chance as a one-time relaxation to UPSC civil service aspirants, who had appeared in their last attempt in the 2020 exam amid the COVID-19 pandemic and are otherwise not age-barred.
"Relaxation, only to the extent of providing one extra attempt for Civil Service Examination (CSE), specifically limited to CSE-2021, may be granted to only those candidates who appeared for CSE-2020 as their last permissible attempt and are otherwise not age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021," the Centre told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar.
In a note filed in the apex court, the Centre said that no relaxation shall be granted for CSE-2021 to those candidates who have not exhausted their permissible number of attempts or to those who are otherwise age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021 as per the prescribed age limits of different categories, or to any other candidate for any other reason whatsoever.
"This relaxation for the candidates and to the extent as prescribed above, shall be a one-time relaxation only and shall apply only for appearing in CSE-2021 and shall not be treated as a precedent," it told the bench, also comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.
The Centre said that the relaxation "shall not create any vested right whatsoever or any other purported right on ground of parity or otherwise, in favour of any other set/class of candidates at any time in the future." "As per the suggestion of this court, the Union of India is agreeable for the following ex-gratia, one-time, restricted relaxation to be granted to the prospective candidates, subject to the same being part of a consent order, disposing off the petition," the note, filed by Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, said.
The bench told Raju to circulate the note and asked the petitioners to file their responses to it.
The top court said it would hear the matter on February 8.
The bench is hearing a plea seeking grant of one more chance in the UPSC's civil services exam to those aspirants who could not appear in their last attempt in 2020 due to the pandemic.
On February 1, the Centre had told the top court that it cannot grant an extra chance to civil services aspirants who could not appear or prepare well for their last attempt in the UPSC civil service exam in 2020 due to the pandemic, while reiterating that it would amount to extending "differential treatment" to similarly placed candidates.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had on February 1 sought time to discuss the issue once again.
The Centre had furnished a chart in the apex court giving details of relaxation given by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in civil services exams since its inception and had said that in 1979, 1992 and 2015 relaxations were given to the candidates due to change in patterns of examination.
The bench had observed that one-time relaxation would benefit over 3,300 students without even increasing the age-limit. In its affidavit filed earlier in the top court, the Centre had said the contention by the petitioners that their preparation was hampered due to the stress caused by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic does not hold weight as the UPSC had already given extra time to the candidates by postponing the civil service (preliminary) examination from May 31, 2020 to October 4, 2020.
"It is further submitted that giving an additional attempt or relaxation in age for some candidates would amount to extending differential treatment for similarly placed candidates at the examination," it had said and added that providing an extra attempt could further have "cascading effect" by creating a ground for challenge by candidates, who have already appeared for the October, 2020 exam.
It had said that non-final attempt candidates, who took the examinations without any murmur or discontent, would disadvantageously be placed in future examination, if the relief is granted to the petitioners as it would enable a vast number of experienced candidates, to participate in the examination again.
It had said 4,86,952 candidates appeared in the October 4, last year examination and the UPSC had "left no stone unturned in their pursuit to accommodate for the means and interests of the candidates".
The top court on September 30 last year had refused to postpone the UPSC civil services preliminary exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic and floods in several parts of the country.
However, it had directed the central government and the UPSC to consider granting an extra chance to candidates who have their last attempt in 2020, with corresponding extension of the upper age-limit.