The Bombay High Court on Thursday said examinations of Classes 10 and 12 are now being cancelled all over the country owing to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked if the court can interfere in such policy matters.
The court asked that at a time when gatherings are being avoided due to the coronavirus situation, is it right to make children assemble at one place to take the exams.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni questioned Pune-based professor Dhananjay Kulkarni, who had filed a petition challenging the Maharashtra government's decision to cancel the SSC (Class 10) board exams this year due to surge in COVID-19 cases, as to what was the manifest arbitrariness in the said decision.
"What is the manifest arbitrariness? Why do you say that these exams need to be held? Tomorrow if students get affected (with COVID-19) then who will take responsibility? Are you (petitioner) willing to take responsibility?" Chief Justice Datta said.
The court noted that all over the country board examinations are being cancelled and the decision is being taken by expert bodies.
"This is a matter of policy where the Executive has taken a decision. It may appear as foolish to you (petitioner) or sometimes even us, but that is no ground for us to interfere. The only ground where we can interfere is when there is manifest arbitrariness and the decision infringes upon a person's fundamental right," the court said.
The court further said that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was "more lethal".
"When we are all avoiding congregations, is it right to make children assemble at one place to take the exams? We cannot play with their (students) lives, especially in this second wave," the bench said.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the court that the Common Entrance Test (CET), which will be held by the government's education board for admission to Class 11, would be open for students from all boards and not just the state board.
The petitioner's advocate Uday Warunjikar then told the court that he would withdraw this petition with liberty to file a fresh petition challenging the May 28 government resolution by which a formula was devised on how to evaluate Class 10 students.
The court permitted the same and said, "The petition is dismissed as withdrawn."
Two weeks back, while hearing the same petition, a division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade had come down heavily on the Maharashtra government over the cancellation of the Class 10 exam, saying it was making a mockery of the education system.
It had sought a reply as to why the decision to cancel the exam should not be set aside, and said the government cannot spoil students' career and future in the name of pandemic.