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UGC guidelines: SC reserves judgment on plea challenging September final year exams

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on a plea challenging University Grants Commission's decision to hold final year exams by September end. The apex court asked all the counsels to submit a note on their submission within three days.

Nidhi Taneja Nidhi Taneja @nidhiindiatv
New Delhi Updated on: August 18, 2020 14:58 IST
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Image Source : INDIA TV

UGC guidelines: SC to continue hearing plea challenging September final year exams today

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on a plea challenging University Grants Commission's decision to hold final year exams by September end. The apex court asked all the counsels to submit a note on their submission within three days. During the three-hour-long hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta noted that the Universities can seek for the deadline to be pushed, however, they cannot take the decision to confer degrees without holding exams. 

HIGHLIGHTS

2:03 PM: Supreme Court RESERVES judgment.

2:02 PM: All Counsels have been directed to submit a note on their submissions within three days

2:01 PM: SG finally notes that the Universities can seek for the deadline to be pushed, however, they cannot take the decision to confer degrees without holding exams. 

2:00 PM: SG makes a final submission that the entire country is working. “The students are 21-22 year olds. Can you really believe that they will not be going out ?”

1:58 PM: Bench asks SG Mehta that if there is a certain situation in a State, can the UGC override the State and mandate for the exams to still be held? How can that happen?

1:57 PM: SG: Under this Act, the Central Government does have the supremacy to decide. 

1:56 PM: Bench: This much is clear. The only question that needs to be answered is whether a University’s decision can override the Guidelines. 

1:55 PM: SG: For instance, disaster in Gujarat is a local disaster, which is area-based. Now come to the definition of the term “Central Government”. And “disaster” means a catastrophe, mishap. calamity etc. 

1:54 PM: SG: I don’t wish to travel in the area of whether Centre is supreme or State is Supreme. The Act is designed in a way that a disaster can be a local disaster or a disaster can be pan-India. 

1:53 PM: SG: I am now directly coming to the arguments based on the Disaster Management Act. 

1:52 PM: SG now refers to a 2013 judgment of  “Maha Vaishno Devi Mahila Vishwavidyalaya v. State of UP”. 

1:51 PM: SG: The limited point that I am making is that the Guidelines have a statutory mandatory force. 

SG now refers to a 2005 judgment. 

1:50 PM: SG: Regulation 6(1) of 2003 Regulations is regarding the minimum standard for giving the first degree. Plus, the University must adhere to it. There is a statutory mandate here.

1:47 PM: SG: UGC Act derives its power from Entry 66 of List 1 in Schedule 7. I want to draw your attention to Section 12 which provides functions of University. 

1:46 PM: SG now attempts to show the Bench statistics regarding all the States. 

The Bench directs him to submit a short note and to begin on the legal submission. 

1:45 PM: SG now refers to State of Maharashtra’s 13 July affidavit. 

SG: What is the position ? We are not only dealing with 4-5 states. It is a pan-India issue. 

1:44 PM: SG: SG: The UGC’s directions are meant to ensure that the degrees of the students are provided to them at the lastest. It is for their interest only.

1:43 PM: SG: The UGC and other Regulators exist for the protection of interests of stakeholders. Here, students are the main stakeholders. 

1:42 PM: SG: The SOP talks about thermal scanning, masks, social distancing, and this was approved so as to ensure that students’ health was fine. 

1:41 PM: SG now refers to the Standard Operating Procedure which lays down the dos and don’ts that has been vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

1:40 PM: SG: The performance in examination brings in scholarship and recognition, and job opportunities. I want to now show application of mind and consideration of ground situation. 

1:37 PM: SG: Presently many Universities have conducted the exams - online, offline and in hybrid mode. 

1:36 PM: SG now refers to the MHA Guidelines which have been referred to in the past few months. He also refers to the Guidelines for conduct of examinations. 

1:34 PM: SG: Now, responding to Dr. Singhvi’s manifestly arbitrary argument, the conduction of final-year exam is a must. One cannot say that holding it is arbitrary. 

1:32 PM: SG now refers to Divan’s arguments of last week about how the government wasn’t functioning. He further states that the MHA’s guidelines could make the restrictions stricter. 

1:31 PM: Solicitor General submits that there is a "political somersault" behind Maharashtra govt decision to cancel exams after its State Committee recommended exams on May 6.

1:30 PM: SG now refers to the chain of events in a chronological manner, including the decision of MHA to reduce the extent of the lockdown. 

1:29 PM: SG: There was a political somersault by the Maharashtra government in this matter. 

1:28 PM: SG: It was their committee and their observations that the exams can be conducted. And the State accepted their report. But, I am not concerned only with Maharashtra.

1:27 PM: SG: On 6th May, State of Maharashtra constituted a State-level Committee by Minister of Higher and Technical Education. Their own committee recommended the conduct. 

1:26 PM: The hearing in Students vs UGC matter has resumed in the Supreme Court after a short connection problem in the Video Conferencing. Solicitor General making submissions.

1:25 PM: SG Mehta continues his submissions. He refers to the compilations wherein the UGC Guidelines are enumerated. 

1:21 PM: Senior Advocate KV Vishwanathan asks SG Mehta about how he deals with the physical files during COVID times. 

SG responds, but no sound comes. 

Vishwanathan: Oh, you are muted. For a change!

1:15 PM: 

Connection with the Bench has been lost. 

SG: Must be an electricity problem. I am having the problem too. 

KV Vishwanathan: Imagine the plight of the students ! 

1:14 PM: SG: First the Bench needs to decide who is superior. I don’t want to make this into a Centre v. State argument. But, let us look at the UGC Act and its powers.

1:11 PM: Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta now begins his submissions. Your Lordship has the jurisdiction to set this aside. But, I will put forth the contours of the jurisdiction. 

1:10 PM: Navare: In this context, UGC completely has the power to mandate the conduction of exams. But, yes, the deadline of September 30 must be left to the individual Universities. So, I completely support the UGC Guidelines. 

1:09 PM: Navare: The only powers conferred upon a State is under Section 8. There is no other provision which gives powers to the State. In fact, even VC is given the power, but not the State. 

1:07 PM: Navare: This is not an opportunity to gain popularity amongst students by Chief Ministers of States. The DMA does not give the SDMA any power to do this.

1:06 PM: Navare: At the most, in its widest amplitude, the deadline can be moved. But, States cannot be directed to not hold the exams at all. 

1:05 PM: Navare: I must raise the issue that students seeking for examinations not to be held cannot be heard under Article 32 at all.

1:04 PM: Navare: The decision taken by UGC is within the four corners of its powers. It does not exceed their powers. 

1:04 PM: Navare: Apart from the pandemic, one cannot say that there is no legal soundness in the decision of UGC. 

1:03 PM: Senior Advocate Vinay Navare now makes his submissions. 

1:02 PM: Narasimha: I don’t think the Guidelines given by UGC contravene the issues of health as Vishwanathan has said. We must move forward. 

1:01 PM: Narasimha: Further, life must go on ! Government is functioning, Courts are functioning. We must be resilient in this matter. In this context, UGC has given the COVID guidelines. 

1:00 PM: Narasimha: There are students who put in a lot of hope in their last exam. They think that “final exam aayega toh karenge”. By doing away with the exam, meritorious students will jeopardised. 

1:00 PM: Narasimha highlights the importance of the final-year examination in assessing the capability of a student, even for purposes of higher education. 

12:58 PM: Narasimha: Many students, for going to higher education abroad, it is to be noted that the final examination is absolutely necessary. 

12:56 PM: Sr. Adv. PS Narasimha commences his submissions

12:55 PM: Adv. Kishor Lambat, for the Intervenor, makes his submissions. He highlights that there are parents who have lost jobs and students are facing hardships.

12:52 PM: Alakh Alok further highlights that there are flood-affected areas as well which impede the conduct of exams. 

Bench notes that these arguments have been made before. 

12:51 PM: Alakh Alok: Coming to the constitutional arguments, my predecessor who has passed out, they will be treated on a different footing and I will be disadvantaged. This is against Art. 14. 

12:50 PM: Alakh Alok: Further, the nature of the exams should be told to the students at the beginning of the semester. The session began in July 2019. Of course the pandemic could not be foreseen. 

12:49 PM: Srivastava: Section 14 of the UGC Act says that if a University fails to comply with UGC Guidelines, UGC can stop giving it grants. That’s the widest scope. 

12:48 PM: Srivastava: Section 14 of the UGC Act says that if a University fails to comply with UGC Guidelines, UGC can stop giving it grants. That’s the widest scope. 

12:48 PM: Srivastava: These exams will directly affect the health of lakhs of students. Section 12 requires consultation and the consultation should include public health experts. 

12:47 PM: Adv. Alakh Alok Srivastava begins his submissions. 

12:46 PM: Arora: Please consider that when the results of the leftover students are declared, Universities take into account the situation and take in students on that ground. 

12:45 PM: Arora: You must seriously consider this. Not only are they going through trauma of an epidemic, but the mental trauma the students are going though is compounding the problem.  

12:44 PM: Justice Bhushan: What is your solution ? This has been argued. 

Arora: DU has already begun the exams. I request my Lords to ensure that those students who have not been able to give the exams to be treated on equal footing. 

12:43 PM: Arora: The issue here is that other Universities, jobs have limited seats which will be fulfilled at the earliest. The leftover students will lose out. 

12:42 PM: Sr. Adv. Mihir Desai attempts to make submissions on behalf of Intervenors. The Bench states that they will hear him later. 

Sr. Adv. Meenakshi Arora now makes submissions. 

12:41 PM: Senior Counsel for Delhi submits that students had already arranged their affairs as per the earlier guidelines of #UGC which left it to the States to take a decision on final exams as per local situations.

12:40 PM: Bench: There is no contradiction between April and July Guidelines. They former only allowed the Universities the discretion to decide the method. 

12:39 PM: Vishwanathan: Finally, what will happen to those Universities who have already followed the April Guidelines ? Students have already arranged their affairs as per those guidelines. 

12:38 PM: There is no rational behind not exempting exams for final semester students while exempting the same for other semesters, submit the senior counsel for Delhi Govt in Students vs UGC matter in SC 

12:37 PM: Vishwanathan: The most hard-hit will be the poor, the downtrodden, and those without any access to technology. Unless you decide to give them all Tablets. 

12:36 PM: Vishwanathan: The Court should not rest with the Kuhad Committee Report. No alternative mechanisms have been explored. Please consult someone of repute. 

12:35 PM: Vishwanathan: It is easier to devise an alternative mechanism for the final sem students than for the second sem students. 

12:34 PM: Vishwanathan: There is no rational differentiation between last semester students and second semester students. Unequals are being treated equally. 

12:33 PM: Vishwanathan: The scenario we are in today, there has to be a different method which is devised. This is an extraordinary situation. 

12:32 PM: Vishwanathan: The strongest argument for the SG here is that the past few circulars are Guidelines. But, they cannot be mandatory. 

12:31 PM: Vishwanathan: This is the pith and substance of the argument. Section 12 (consultation) has been argued, so I will not delve into it. 

12:30 PM: Vishwanathan: There are students who have grandparents, parents at home; they are not even stepping out of the house ! They don’t have access to books (which can be very expensive). 

 

12:28 PM: Vishwanathan: As per 6 July Guidelines, three modes of exams are permitted. Offline - Completely out of question ! Online - They don’t have access to libraries or any student material.

12:27 PM: Vishwanathan highlights the divide between rich and poor students, with the latter having no access to proper technology.  

12:26 PM: The Bench informs Datta that these propositions have already been argued. 

Sr. Adv. KV Vishwanathan, on behalf of Delhi Govt., begins his submissions now. 

12:25 PM: Datta: Fine, they care about the standards of the examination. But, what about public health ?

The Bench informs Datta that these propositions have already been argued. 

Sr. Adv. KV Vishwanathan, on behalf of Delhi Govt., begins his submissions now. 

12:24 PM: Datta: There are dual aspects. There is education and public health. UGC has not informed the Court about what they’re doing about public health!

12:24 PM: Datta: UGC has not consulted with the State. The State is working on the ground level and know how the situation. It is the duty of the State to ensure public health. 

12:23 PM: Datta: They are not concerned with public health. 

Bench: Guidelines of social distancing etc. still need to be followed. 

12:22 PM: Datta: UGC cannot consider this to be a normal circumstance. They have proceeded on the basis as if this is 2019 or 2018. These are exceptional circumstances. 

12:21 PM: Datta submits that different States cannot be treated on the same platter as every State has certain peculiarities. Further, UGC has not taken into account these differences.

12:20 PM: Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta concludes his submissions. 

AG of State of West Bengal, Kishore Datta, now begin making submissions. 

12:19 PM: Gupta: Further, three persons across the country cannot be said to form a proper consultation method. UGC has not complied with Section 12 of the UGC Act. 

12:18 PM: Gupta: What they’re asking us to do is impossible. In the process, many students will be left out.

12:18 PM: Gupta: They have not taken into account the accessibility of students. West Bengal will not be able to hold online exams because students don’t have the technology to give the exams. 

12:17 PM: Gupta: These Guidelines are an Executive order and still need to be tested under Article 14. The Wednesbury Rules apply. The UGC has just not taken into account the ground realities. 

12:16 PM: Gupta: There is also the Cyclone Amphan which has led to many institutions being turned into shelters. Physical exams in this situation are just not possible.

12:15 PM: Gupta: These are special circumstances which affect West Bengal. Metro is not working, local trains are not working. Question of holding exams does not arise. Cannot be done !

 

12:14 PM: Gupta: In West Bengal, we don’t have campus centres. There are different centres which need to be booked and would require students to travel and find accommodation across the State. 

12:13 PM: Gupta: To insist for an examination for the last semester is not reasonable because there is no difference between the last semester and the second semester or any other semester. 

12:12 PM: Gupta: It is not a reasonable proposition because every semester is important and average of semesters is important. They are placing a higher weight on the last semester. 

12:12 PM: Gupta: My submission is that the UGC guidelines of 6 July is not a statutory document. Mandating the exams to be held by September 30 is unreasonable. 

12:11 PM: Gupta: Just as Mr. Datar pointed out, in both semester and yearly system, aggregate marks are taken into place. 

Bench: There is no issue. If it is permissible, then University is free to evolve its own procedure. 

12:11 PM: Sr. Adv. Jaideep Gupta, on behalf of an association of teachers, now makes his submissions with respect to the situation in State of West Bengal. 

12:10 PM: AG of Odisha: We have been writing to the government to make them understand this situation. 

Justice Bhushan: We will read your Counter. 

12:09 PM: AG of Odisha: In the present circumstances, it would be completely impossible for the State to hold the exams as mandated by UGC. Odisha is at its peak!

12:08 PM: AG of Odisha highlights that it would be a Herculean task for the hostels to accommodate students, colleges have been closed since March and house owners will not be willing to accommodate students. 

12:08 PM: AG of Odisha refers to the Affidavit of the State of Odisha to put forth the method devised to hold the examination. 

12:07 PM: AG of Odisha: Under the prevailing situation of COVID-19, it is not possible to hold a conventional examination. With this background, it is our submission that the exam is a culmination of 6 sems. 

12:06 PM: The Bench notes that they will hear State of Odisha before.

The AG of Odisha submits that his arguments are along the lines of Datar’s. 

12:05 PM: The Bench notes that they will hear State of Odisha before.

The AG of Odisha submits that his arguments are along the lines of Datar’s. 

12:04 PM: Adv. Alakh Alok Srivastava attempts to make a submission, but the Bench notes that they will hear his submissions later.  

12:03 PM: Datar: One is a delegated legislation and one is a State legislation. It states that a State has complete autonomy. A statutory provision will overrule the Guidelines. There is no repugnancy. 

12:02 PM: Datar concludes his submissions by placing on record the Maharashtra Examination Act to put forth the legal proposition.

12:01 PM: The Bench tells Datar that they have noted all these submissions. 

Justice Shah (in a lighter vein): Allow other Counsels to give the exam too !

12:00 PM: Datar: UGC direction to hold final exams by September 30 was tanne without consulting anyone in Maharashtra and without finding out the situation in the State.

12:00 PM: Justice Bhushan asks Datar if there’s anything more. 

Datar highlights some paragraphs regarding the practical difficulties with respect to conduct of exams. 

11:59 AM: Datar: I have asked everyone in Maharashtra. No one was consulted. No one tried to find out what the situation was in Maharashtra. Section 12 was not complied with. 

11:59 AM: Datar submits that first committee was chaired by Prof. RC Kuhad. The second committee was also under him. 

He states that other universities and other bodies were not consulted. 

11:58 AM: Datar: The stand of UGC in April was to allow states to take a call on final exams; expert committee recommended that students be evaluated on internal marks. Now UGC has turned around.

Datar: In the second Committee, kindly see who all they’ve consulted. It’s very interesting. 

SG Mehta requests Datar to read Page 7 of the Affidavit. 

11:57 AM: Datar submits that the 29 April report says that it will be left to the discretion of the States and the recent report states that the final examinations must be conducted.

11:56 AM: Datar highlights that the recent Committee report (which mandates compulsory conduction of exams) does not mention who has been consulted.

11:55 AM: Datar: This report was a report published by the Expert Committee. Kindly see who they were on April 30. 

11:54 AM: Datar: The recommendations of the expert committee itself stated that if the severity of the situation does not abate, the students could be evaluated on internal marks. 

11:53 AM: Datar: What were guidelines back then have become mandatory now. If the same UGC says back then that chart your own course, how can they force us now?

11:52 AM: Arvind Datar, senior counsel for Maharashtra, raises the point of lack to access for all students to online education.

11:51 AM: Datar: They said that it would not be feasible and this was with few cases. 

Justice Bhushan: Mr. Datar, we have read these guidelines. 

11:50 AM: Datar: I will take 10 minutes. This is at the beginning of #COVID19. It was noted that some universities lacked the infrastructure to conduct online exams. 

11:49 AM: Datar now refers to the common compilation. 

11:48 AM: Datar: My submission is that any decision taken should be with the consultation of Universities. “Other bodies concerned” should include authorities under DMA. 

11:47 AM: Datar now refers to the UGC Act and the duties of the Commission. 

“In consultation with Universities and other bodies concerned”. 

11:46 AM: Datar: We are also worried about the students. We too want the exams to be held at the earliest. We are worried about their future, but it can’t be done in this manner. 

11:45 AM: Datar: When it comes to accessibility and online exams, how will students without access be able to give the exams ? What about students with disabilities ?

11:44 AM: Datar: There are so many educational institutes which have been turned into quarantine centres. As per the MHA guidelines, they can’t open till August 31. 

11:43 AM: Datar: The other point I’m making is that an education centre in Pune which has lakhs of students is empty because the students have gone back home. 

11:42 AM: Datar: UGC says, the States can take the situation into account and hold exams but by 30th September.

When we could not hold exams when the cases were at 15,000 how can we hold exams now?

11:41 AM: Justice Bhushan states that if there are different dates for different States, then the argument would be raised that UGC is being discriminatory. 

11:40 AM: Datar: How can you say that Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha must hold it by Sept 30 ? It is completely violative of Art. 14. 

11:40 AM: Datar refers to a judgment with the citation AIR 61 SC 552. 

He submits that Article 14 is violated if you treat the unequal equally. 

11:40 AM: Justice Bhushan: There is no dispute that Maharashtra is the worst. 

11:39 AM: Datar: The situation in Maharashtra with regard to #COVID19 is terrible. 

11:38 AM: Datar: The July 6 Guidelines is liable to be struck down.

11:37 AM: Datar: It is outside the scope of the powers of UGC. It is ultra vires of UGC to mandate the exams to be held by Sept 30. 

11:36 AM: Datar: They cannot say that you have to hold the exams by Sept 30 at any cost. Their powers are confined to List 1 and Constitution Bench says that it is limited. 

11:35 AM: Datar: My second submission is that direction of UGC to all Universities to hold it at any cost by Sept 30 is completely violative of its powers. 

11:34 AM: Datar: My first submission is that there is nothing arbitrary in a University taking a decision against UGC. If IIT can do that, others can too. 

11:33 AM: Justice Bhushan: If there is a contrary direction of UGC, the University cannot act against it. If a University dilutes it, then every University will act in this manner. If a standard is fixed, it’s fixed. 

Datar: You are under the impression that not conducting the exam will lead to the dilution of standards. 

Justice Bhushan: That we have understood your argument. 

11:32 AM: Datar: Please note that job interviews also take place in the last semester. Here is a student who has completed 87.5% of the course.

11:31 AM: Datar: Kindly appreciate, I’m not saying that a 2nd year student should be passed. I’m saying that this is a student who has almost finished the course. 

11:30 AM: Justice Shah: According to you, only five semesters will be considered, and six will not be conducted at all?

11:29 AM: Justice Bhushan: We have gone through the Regulations. If there’s anything you want to point out, point out. 

Justice Shah asks Datar to read 8.1 Regulation

11:28 AM: Justice Bhushan: We’ve understood your case that in Maharashtra it is this system. But the entire country is different. What is your argument ?. 

11:27 AM: Justice Shah: So, Universities have a choice about the kind of semester system they want to follow. 

11:26 AM: Datar: I want to make one point clear. These Regulations apply across India. 

11:24 AM: Datar: The semester system is applicable throughout the country. 

SG: It is not. 

Datar: As per my instructions, it is. 

11:24 AM: Justice Bhushan states that the arguments need to be addressed in a manner that affects the entire country, and should not be limited to a State as UGC applies across the country. 

11:23 AM: SG Mehta asks whether the pattern is present in all Universities. 

Datar states that it’s the case for State of Maharashtra. 

 11:22 AM: Datar: Now today, we are only concerned with final exams. If there are 42 courses, the student has already completed 36. As of March, his CGPA will be the average of first five sems. 

11:21 AM: Datar: If I am a student of 1st semester, I write the courses and get the marks. Same for 2nd semester. Now a person gets the aggregate of these two sems which is called CGPA. 

11:20 AM: Datar: Clause 6 read with Clause 8 of the 2003 Guidelines gives the picture that a student is evaluated from Day 1. This is different from what we had in our days.

11:16 AM: Datar: As of March 2020, 5 semesters had already been completed, and the internal assessment for 6th sem was almost over. 

11:15 AM: Datar: We have 3-year degree & 5-year degree courses. I’m currently concerned with only non-professional courses. In 2003, the semester system was there.

11:14 AM: Datar: Note 3 things - What is a programme, what is a semester and what is a course. 

11:13 AM: Datar: I will explain why not holding the exams is not something fatal and why it won’t amount to dilution. We are now dealing with 2003 UGC Guidelines. 

11:12 AM: Datar: I am only putting forth the best argument. If a central institute of international repute can do this, why can’t we ? 

11:11 AM: Datar: IIT itself is going to issue degrees without conducting the final exams. 

Justice Bhushan: We are not concerned with IIT. 

11:10 AM: Datar refers to the question asked by Justice Reddy whether not conducting the exam would lead to dilution. 

11:09 AM: Justice Ashok Bhushan explains the scope arrogated to an authority under the Disaster Management Act. 

11:08 AM: “Only the authorities can decide what is in their welfare. Students are not competent enough to decide.”

Justice BR Gavai raises the issue, “Won’t not conducting the exams lead to dilution of the standards only ?”

11:07 AM: Datar: You have raised two questions. I will come to the constitutional aspect later. I will raise the “welfare of students” issue. 

Justice Bhushan says that the students cannot decide their welfare. 

11:05 AM: Justice Shah: But, UGC is not conducting the exams here. That is up to the Universities. You can’t say that UGC says conduct exams. 

11:04 AM: Datar submits that the judgment states that Entry 66 has a very limited scope. It would only mean “laying down standards, but not include conduct”. 

11:03 AM: Datar: 2016 7 SCC. This was regarding medical education and main controversy was what was the power of State Govt. and Central Govt. 

Datar: Kindly note that here it was “coordination and determination of standards”. 

He continues reading the judgement. 

11:03 AM: Justice MR Shah states that the judgment is related to medical colleges. 

Datar continues with the 2016 judgement and informs the Bench that he will try to convey its relevance. 

11:02 AM: Datar now refers to a judgement. 

11:02 AM: Datar: The UGC Act is traced to Entry 66 of List 1. My submission is that UGC can lay down standards, but it can’t compel exams to be held. 

11:01 AM: The Bench asks Datar to proceed now. 

11:00 AM: There is a slight confusion regarding the counters which are being referred to. Datar informs the Bench that the Counter he is referring to is dated 30th July. 

10:59 AM: The Bench is now perusing the submissions. 

10:58 AM: Datar continues his submissions.

10:57 AM: SG Mehta asks for the written submissions to be sent to him. Datar obliges. 

10:56 AM: Datar: I will come to the practical difficulties which exists in holding the exams. Please come to the Counter filed by #UGC. I will refer to the common compilation and my written submissions. 

10:55 AM: Sr. Adv. Arvind Datar begins making submissions for State of Maharashtra. He states that the State is the worst affected. 

10:45 AM: The bench has assembled. Hearing shortly

10:44 AM: Hearing to begin shortly

10:41 AM: The Control Room coordinator informs the Counsels present that Items 1, 2, 3, 30 and 31 (Petitions against UGC Guidelines) will be taken together. 

10:40 AM: The Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan will assemble shortly in VC-5.

(With inputs from Live Law)

Written submissions in SC

  • Ahead of the hearing, petitioners on Monday filed a written submission before the apex court, contending that UGC's decision to hold final year exams is violative of various provisions of the UGC Act and Regulations, apart from the Constitutional stipulations. Filed through Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, the petitioners via their written submissions asserted that the impugned guidelines dated July 6, 2020, directing all the universities to hold final year exams by September 30 is violative of Section 12 of the UGC Act as much as the UGC bypassed the statutory duty to formulate such guidelines "in consultation with the universities or other bodies concerned."
  • The submission mentioned that despite the said mandate under Section 12, the UGC failed to consult with universities or other bodies. The UGC purportedly relied upon the recommendations of the Kuhad Committee, it said, adding that the committee "cannot be construed as either university or other bodies."
  • Advocate Srivastava, through the written submissions, also highlighted that the Kuhad Committee did not consist of any health expert of epidemiologists, rather it comprised only academicians alone and hence it did not quality the statutory test of Section 12 of the UGC Act amid the COVID-19 pandemic scenario. 
  • "Further it is submitted that Section 12 of the Act stipulates that UGC can only recommend and advise the universities and it cannot enforce the guidelines formulated under Section 12. Hence the compulsory nature of the guidelines dated 06.07.2020 is further violative of the said Section 12 of the UGC Act.
  • The petitioners have submitted that Regulation 6.3 mandates that the nature of final examination, whether written or oral or both, in respect of each course, shall also be made known to the students "at the beginning of the academic session." It said that the UGC cannot be permitted to make known the format of its final year examination on 06.07.2020 "after the academic session of the final year students ended."

  • The petitioners also argued that the UGC guidelines are in derogation of the Right to Equality conferred upon all individuals under Article 14 of the Constitution on the counts that (a) there is a sheer violation of fundamental right to equality of those students who are unable to appear in these examinations due to COVID-19 crisis as compared to those students who are duly appearing these exams (b) students who passed their final year exams last year, received their final marksheets/degrees mostly by 31.07.2019. However, the students of this year may be getting the similar final marksheets/degrees by the end of September or even later, which may deprive them from various job/admission opportunities (c) the impugned guidelines discriminate between the final year students who would be forced to appear in the upcoming exams and the intermediate year students, who have been exempted from appearing in their exams. 

 

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