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UGC right to make exams compulsory but states can postpone schedule: SC

However, states can approach the UGC if they wish to postpone holding the examinations beyond the September 30 deadline, a 3-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan ruled.

New Delhi, August 28: The Supreme Court ruled on Friday students cannot be promoted without writing the final year or terminal semester examinations, upholding a July 6 directive of the University Grants Commission (UG) to hold exams by September 30.

However, states will have the liberty to defer such exams beyond the September 30 deadline in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the three-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan said.

“States cannot promote students based on internal assessment or past performance. If states want to hold exams after September 30, they can approach UGC for the same,” the bench said.

Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena, is among several petitioners in the top court and has questioned UGC’s directive to hold examinations amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bench had reserved its verdict on the issue on August 18.

UGC had earlier told the top court that its July 6 directive, asking universities and colleges to conduct final year exams by September 30 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, is “not a diktat” but states cannot take the decision to confer degrees without holding the exams.

It had told the court that the directive is for the “benefit of students” as the universities have to start admissions to postgraduate courses and state authorities cannot override the UGC’s guideline.

The top court had observed that the issue is if the state disaster management authority has decided that the situation is not conducive for holding exams, can they overrule UGC. It had said that another issue is whether the commission can override state authorities and ask the universities to hold examinations on given dates.

The top court was earlier told by one of the petitioners that nobody is against the university examinations in “normal times” and the students are challenging the UGC’s decision because of the pandemic.

The commission had said that final examination is a “crucial step” in the academic career of a student and the state government cannot say that its July 6 directive was “not binding”.

On August 10, UGC had questioned the decisions of Delhi and Maharashtra governments to cancel final year exams of state universities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, saying they were against the rules. The Solicitor General had earlier informed the bench that out of over 800 universities in the country, 209 have completed the examinations while around 390 universities are in the process of conducting exams.

UGC had said that in June this year, considering the evolving situation of the pandemic, it requested an expert committee to revisit the April 29 guidelines, by which it had asked the universities and institutions to hold final year examinations in July 2020.

The committee submitted a report recommending that terminal semester/final year examinations should be conducted by universities/ institutions by the end of September, 2020 in offline or pen and paper or online/blended (online + offline) mode, UGC had said.

It added that this report of the expert committee was deliberated and approved by the UGC in its emergent meeting held on July 6, since the conduct of the final year/terminal examination is a time-sensitive issue.

UGC had said, while assailing the decisions of some states like Maharashtra and Delhi of cancelling the final year exams, that such decisions directly affect the standards of higher education. It will be an encroachment on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education that is exclusively reserved for Parliament under Schedule VII of the Constitution, it had said.

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