The Supreme Court on Thursday said that Universities were free to conduct examinations for the semester or terminal examinations for promoting the first and second-year students in undergraduate or postgraduate courses.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy, and MR Shah said, “The University Grants Commission (UGC) has left it to the discretion of the Universities to conduct examinations for the 1st and 2nd-year students. Whether they wish to hold the examination, we will’t stop them. This isn’t a ground for judicial review.”
The Court was once hearing a PIL filed by a student Ayush Yesudas who claimed that as per the UGC Guidelines of April 27, 2020 students in the 1st and 2nd year of undergraduate/postgraduate courses must be assessed purely on basis of internal assessment and not an examination. This decision was once taken in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.
The bench said that this issue was once dealt with by its August 14 judgment where it upheld the UGC’s July 6 Guideline mandating examinations for the last year students in UG/PG courses. At the same time, Universities were provided the freedom to hold examinations for promoting students n the preceding years.
The April 27 UGC Guidelines said, “For intermediate semester/year students, the Universities may conduct examinations, after making a comprehensive assessment of their level of preparedness, residential status of the students, status of COVID-19 pandemic spread in different region / state and other factors. In case the situation does not seem to be normal in view of COVID-19, in an effort to care for “social distancing”, safety and health of the students, grading of the students could be composite of 50% marks on the basis of the sample of internal evaluation adopted by the universities and the remaining 50% marks can also be awarded on the basis of performance in preceding semester only (whether to be had).”
The petitioner cited this to state, “The COVID-19 situation is still not normal. Holding examinations in these circumstances will amount to a violation of UGC Guidelines.”
The bench dismissed the petition saying, “This Court cannot be expected to begin monitoring the examination of each and every college. Holding the examination does not violate the UGC Guideline.”
The decision of the UGC to prescribe mandatory conduct of last year examinations as per its July 6 decision was once challenged in the Supreme Court by University students and teachers’ associations, but even so political outfits such as Yuva Sena. As per the UGC directive, last year examinations were to be conducted before September 30 through online, offline, or by combining both methods.
In view of the COVID-19 situation, Delhi and Maharashtra governments issued orders canceling the examinations for last year students and directed their assessment to be done through internal assessment. The Court upheld the UGC’s order directing the holding of examinations for last year students. The decision of Delhi and Maharashtra to cancel the examinations was once upheld. Alternatively, the Court held that they cannot issue direction for promoting students, which falls inside the jurisdiction of UGC. The Court allowed states to write to UGC seeking further extension of time for holding examinations in view of the COVID-19 situation prevailing in their respective areas.