The Supreme Court has begun hearing a batch of petitions seeking cancellation of final year/semester examinations in September amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, lawyer appearing for 31 students, said that he would request the top court to grant relief to students considering their health, safety and job/admission opportunities. Anubha Srivastava Sahai, the chief of the India Wide Parents' Association also hoped for a verdict in the students' favour. "We are expecting that honorable SC will pass order in the larger interest of the students due to this pandemic situation which will force many students to opt-out and many have already left for their hometowns. Best wishes with students," she told India TV Digital ahead of the much-awaited hearing.
11:40 AM: Anubha Srivastava Sahai tells India TV Digital- "Again, SG has asked for time to submit a reply to Delhi and Maharashtra govt affidavit. They are least concerned about the students' plight which is the main issue and is not being addressed. Not happy with the way UGC and other state governments are taking the matter, further delaying it. Justice delayed is justice denied."
11:35 AM: SG Mehta states that court will be taken through the entire scheme of the UGC on the next date of hearing.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar seeks permission to file consolidated replies so that all states point of submissions can be taken on record
11:34 AM: Supreme Court grants time to SG Mehta to file response to Affidavits filed by Maharashtra and Delhi. SG to also state if DM Act overrides notification by UGC. SC to hear the case on August 14.
SG Mehta submits that students have to continue preparing for exams and that if exams are not conducted, the students will not be granted degrees. "That's the law!", submits SG
11:33 AM: SG Mehta says "sooner this is resolved its better for students."
Adv Meenakshi Arora: we have a different understanding to what SG Mehta submits
11:32 AM: Senior Advocate Vinay Navare says "Kindly list our IA too which challenges the Maharashtra govt decision of not conducting the final year exams."
11:30 AM: SG Mehta says "before your lordships assemble, the control room checks who are audible and visible. In this case, the AoR should say that they should not be checked and senior counsel should be checked instead."
11:29 AM: Abhishek Manu Singhvi says - "We are not being unmuted and could not argue. The matter will be over without us even being heard."
11:28 AM: Advocate Shyam Divan seeks counsels to be unmuted by court officers.
11:27 AM: Justice MR Shah asks w"ill the Disaster Management Act have an overriding effect on the UGC directive? You need to reply on this.
11:26 AM: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta seeks time to file a reply to the affidavits filed by Delhi and Maharashtra govt cancelling the exams. Says SG can file reply by tomorrow
11:25 AM: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing, for UGC: "Replies by Maharashtra and Delhi is contrary to the UGC guidelines. When UGC is the only body to confer degrees how can states cancel exams and expect UGC to confer degree."
11:22 AM: Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava says "question is the constitutionality of the UGC guidelines. Delhi and Maharashtra were asked to reply but our concern is not the states' replis but the legality of the UGC guidelines."
11:20 AM: Hearing begins in Supreme Court
11:15 AM: Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi to appear for final year law student Yash Dubey. Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava to appear for 31 students. Senior Advocate Shyam Divan will appear for Aaditya Thackeray.
11:00 AM: Hearing to begin in Supreme Court shortly
What happened during last UGC hearing in SC
- During the previous hearing on July 31, the top court had refused to pass any interim order. However, it had asked the Centre to clear the stand of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the issue.
- The UGC had told the Supreme Court that nobody should remain under the impression that since the Supreme Court is examining this issue, the final year/semester examination will be stayed.
- The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the UGC, that he would apprise the court about MHA's stand on the issue.
- SC Mehta had told the court that they are only concerned with final-year exams and out of over 800 universities in the country, 209 have completed the examinations. He said that around 390 universities are in the process of conducting the examinations.
During the hearing, Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava raised the issue of plight of students in the flood-affected areas of Assam and Bihar.
The bench had also asked counsel for Maharashtra to place before it the June 19 order of the state disaster management committee passed in this regard.
The top court had directed all to file affidavits by August 7.
- In a 50-page affidavit filed before the court, the UGC justified its decision directing all universities and institutions to hold final year/semester examinations in September.
- The regulatory body also said it has issued such guidelines to "protect the academic future of students across the country which will be irreparably damaged if their final year/terminal semester examinations are not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety."
- On decisions of some states like Maharashtra and Delhi to cancel final-year exams, the commission had said that it directly affects the standards of higher education and 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.
Justifying its revised guidelines issued on July 6, the UGC had said it adequately takes into account the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic because it provides sufficient time till the end of September 2020 to conduct the final year/terminal semester exams after following the prescribed protocols and procedures relating to COVID-19.
It said that the Universities/Institutions may conduct such special examinations as and when feasible so that the students concerned are not put to any inconvenience or disadvantage.