Supreme Court says final year exams are 'mandatory' in order promote students

  • India's top court announced its verdict on the University Grants Commission (UGC) cases ruling that it's mandatory for states to conduct final year examinations.
  • It said no students will be promoted without having sat in their respective final semester exams.
  • The Supreme Court has given states the option to appeal to the UGC for an extension beyond the September 30 deadline.
Coronavirus or not, the Supreme Court has ruled that states have no choice but to conduct final year exams in order to promote students upholding the circular put out by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The states will have the choice to appeal for extending the deadline to the UGC beyond September 30.

According to the court, any decision by State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) to postpone the exams, as in the case of Maharashtra, will prevail over the UGC guidelines.

All eyes were on the Supreme Court today as students and institutions awaited the verdict on the UGC case and whether or not final year examinations are mandatory amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At the last hearing on August 18, the apex court had reserved its order and asked for parties to respond and present written submissions on their final arguments within three days.


What happened in the previous hearing?
In the last hearing, on August 18, the Supreme Court asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) if the latter could override a state government decision in certain situations and take a position on the conduct of examinations.

During the marathon hearing that lasted close to four hours, the apex court heard arguments from a battery of Senior Advocates appearing for various stakeholders -- Arvind P Datar (for Maharashtra government), Jaideep Gupta (for teachers from West Bengal), KV Viswanathan (Delhi government) and Advocate Generals of Odisha and West Bengal. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the UGC.

The court was hearing a batch of PILs, along with those from the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, and Delhi, that questioned the UGC directions to universities to conduct final-year exams before September 30.

The state governments argued that they have the power to promote students without exams due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The bench asked Mehta: "Can the UGC override a state government's decision, where a certain situation like Covid-19 exists?"

In response, Mehta submitted that Covid-19 pandemic is a 'national disaster' and it is for the Centre to decide and that the "state authorities cannot override the UGC".

The bench said that this exactly is the question, as the disaster management authority of the state has authority in healthcare. But can the UGC override the state and ask it to conduct exams? "Maybe the UGC can say no degree without an exam. But can they say hold an exam on this date?"

Mehta contended that the deadline was given for the benefit of the students.

"It is not a diktat. All universities must start admissions to postgraduate courses. The country is working," Mehta submitted.

Advocate Alok Srivastava, appearing for a group of students, contended that the July 6 guidelines making it mandatory to hold exams by September 30 cannot be implemented across the country, as there was no proper consultation.

Mehta contended that the universities can seek an extension in the deadline under the UGC guidelines, but they cannot take a decision to confer degree without holding exams.

The Solicitor General also cited 'Maharashtra's political somersault', wherein it first decided to conduct the exams but later opposed it.

Mehta insisted that the UGC and other regulators exist for the protection of the interests of stakeholders. "Here, the students are the main stakeholders," he added.

Reserving the judgment, the top court asked all the parties to submit their written submissions.

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