The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order on a batch of pleas challenging a circular of the University Grants Commission (UGC) mandating to conduct the final term exams in all affiliated universities by the end of September.
As per the report by the India News, in his final submission to the Apex court, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta said, "The entire country is working. The students are 21-22-year-olds. Can you really believe that they will not be going out ?”
Mehta replied this when the Apex Court asked him if there is a certain situation in a State, can the UGC override the State and mandate for the exams to still be held?
A bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan reserved the judgement and said it will also decide whether the states will have power under the Disaster Management Act to defer final examination till the COVID-19 situation normalises.
During the hearing, Mehta also told the court that there was a political somersault by the Maharashtra government in this matter.
He said that on May 6, the State of Maharashtra had constituted a state-level committee by the Minister of Higher and Technical Education. Their own committee recommended that the exams can be conducted, Mehta said.
"One thing I must emphasise is that the deadline was given for the benefit of the students. It's not a diktat. All universities have to start admissions of postgraduate courses The country is working. These students are 20/21 years old. Do you really think they are not stepping out?" the Solicitor General contended.
He argued that the UGC's directions are meant to ensure that the degrees of the students are provided to them at the lastest, it is for their interest only.
Mehta referred to the standard operating procedure vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and said the SOP talks about thermal scanning, masks, social distancing, and this was approved so as to ensure that students' health was fine.
Senior advocate Vijay Navare, appearing for varsity teachers, told the court that the decision of Maharashtra government to not hold University exams was "politically motivated".
Yuva Sena, which has come to court to cancel exams is headed by a minister's son, added Navare.
The Attorney General of Odisha contended that under the prevailing situation of COVID-19 it is not possible to hold a conventional examination. He highlighted that it would be a Herculean task for the hostels to accommodate students, colleges have been closed since March and house owners will not be willing to accommodate students.
In the present circumstances, it would be completely impossible for the state to hold the exams as mandated by UGC, Odisha is at its peak, the Attorney General further contended.
The UGC, through an affidavit, had earlier told the Supreme Court that the decision of Delhi and Maharashtra government of cancelling the final term examination directly will "directly impact the standards of higher education in the country".
The affidavit was filed in on a batch of pleas challenging UGC's July 6 circular and seeking cancellation of final term examination in view of COVID-19 situation.
Earlier, Delhi and Maharashtra governments had told the top court that they have cancelled the examination in the states.
On July 6, the UGC issued exam-related guidelines asking universities to complete the final year, final semester examination by September end in offline, online or blended mode.
Several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court of India challenging the guidelines and seeking cancellation of final year exams.
(With inputs from PTI)