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Supreme Court  Guidelines on Conducting Exams

Supreme Court  Guidelines on Conducting Exams

Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the states are empowered under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to override the University Grants Commission (UGC) exam guidelines in order to protect human lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judgement:

  • A three-judge Bench upheld the power of a State and its disaster management authority to countermand the revised UGC guidelines to conduct the final year and terminal semester examinations by September 30.
  • According to the ruling in case of a disaster, the priority of all authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is to immediately combat the disaster and contain it to save human life. The saving of the life of a human being is given paramount importance.
    • However, the court also held that the powers of the States under the Disaster Management Act do not extend to promoting students on the sole basis of their internal assessment without taking exams.
    • When the State Disaster Management Authority and State government take a decision that for mitigation or prevention of disaster it is not possible to hold the physical examination in the State, the decision is within the four corners of Disaster Management Act, 2005.
    • However, their decision that students should be promoted without appearing in the final year examination is not within the domain of the Act.
  • In the future, if any State found it impossible to conduct the exams by September 30 and wanted to postpone them, it could apply to the UGC, which would consider the request and decide at the earliest.

Arguments:

  • The court also rejected the argument that compelling attendance by holding a physical examination is a violation of the ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21.
  • It pointed out that the revised guidelines take into consideration the fact that the number of COVID cases is rising.
  • The revised guidelines were based on the recommendations of the R.C. Kuhad Expert Committee. They provided three modes of examination - pen and paper, online and blended (both physical and online). A “special chance” was also given to students unable to take the exams.
    • The R.C. Kuhad Expert Committee: It recommended that exams should be held for Terminal Semester Students while the Intermediate Semester Students should be graded based on internal assessment of the present and previous semester. It also suggested the constitution of a Covid-19 cell in every university.
  • The Standard Operating Procedure for the conduct of examination makes it clear that the UGC, MHRD, and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare were fully concerned with the health of students and exam functionaries.

University Grants Commission (UGC):

  • It is a statutory body that came into existence in 1956 by the UGC Act, 1956.
  • It is charged with coordination, determination, and maintenance of standards of higher education.
  • It provides recognition to universities in India and disburses funds to such recognized universities and colleges.
  • Earlier in 1946, UGC was formed to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and, Delhi. In 1947, the Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all the then existing Universities.

Source: The Hindu