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SC: No promotion without exams; states can consult UGC for postponement
New Delhi, August 28, 2020
The Supreme Court on Friday said the University Grants Commission's (UGC) guideline for conducting the final year university examination before September 30 is correct, and states and universities cannot promote students without holding examinations.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said: "We, thus, conclude that the State Disaster Management Authority and the State Government has no jurisdiction to take a decision that the students of final year/terminal examination should be promoted on the basis of earlier years assessment and internal assessment whereas the UGC guidelines dated July 6 directed specifically to conduct final year/terminal semester examination."
The top court rejected the petitioners' contention that promoting students thus on earlier assessment would in no manner lowering the standard of education
The top court said the decision of the Disaster Management Authority or the state government that students should be promoted without appearing in the final year/terminal semester examination, is not within the domain of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The Supreme Court concluded that direction of the University Grants Commission in its revised guidelines dated July 6, where it directs the universities and colleges to complete the final year/terminal examinations by September 30 shall be overridden by any contrary decision taken by a State Disaster Management Authority or the state government exercising power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The bench observed that the revised guidelines of the UGC cannot be termed to violate Article 14 of the Constitution on the ground that one date, September 30, has been fixed irrespective of the conditions prevailing in individual states. "The date for completion of examination was fixed throughout the country to maintain uniformity in the academic calendar," noted the bench, but made it clear that it was not mandatory.
The top court noted that state governments under the Disaster Management Act have power to order postponement of exams in view of pandemic, and for this, if a state wants to postpone the final year exams beyond UGC guideline, then the state concerned should consult the UGC for fixing fresh date for final examination in that state.
This means the UGC's September 30 deadline is not mandatory for state governments to adhere to, and they can fix dates beyond September 30 for holding final exams. "The State and University cannot promote the students in the final year/terminal semester without holding final year/terminal examination," said the top court.
During the hearing, the apex court had asked the UGC if there was a certain situation in a state, could it override the state government and take a position on the schedule of the exams.
The verdict of the apex court has come on a bunch of petitions challenging the UGC directive to universities across the country to conduct final year exams by September 30.
On August 18, in a marathon hearing which lasted for close to four hours, the apex court had heard the final arguments from a battery of senior advocates appearing for various stakeholders, including Arvind P. Datar (for Maharashtra government), Jaideep Gupta (for teachers from West Bengal), K.V. Viswanathan (Delhi government) and the Advocate General for Odisha and West Bengal, while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the UGC.