New Delhi: Upholding the University Grants Commission (UGC) notification mandating universities to conduct final-year exams by September-end, the Supreme Court Friday said states and union territories cannot promote students without conducting exams as directed by the UGC.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said final-year exams for college students have to be held, and that internal assessments will not suffice for conferring degrees.
States and UTs can, however, approach the UGC for an extension of the deadline by which final-year exams should be completed, the court said.
UGC had issued a notification on 6 July, mandating universities to conduct final-year exams by September-end.
Some states had contested the notification. The Maharashtra government, for instance. informed the Supreme Court that its State Disaster Management Authority had on 13 July decided not to conduct exams amid the pandemic.
On this point, the court has now held that the decision of the State Disaster Management Authority will prevail over the UGC guidelines. It, however, added that the SDMA cannot direct that students should be promoted on the basis of previous performance.
The UGC notification was challenged in the Supreme Court through a batch of petitions, including one by 31 students from universities across the country. The petitions noted that the UGC’s decision will compel students to appear for exams during the pandemic, which will be a major risk to their health.
UGC had then defended its deadline last month in the Supreme Court, saying the decision had been taken to “protect the academic future of students”. It had also claimed that a student’s performance in examinations, especially in final year or terminal semester, gives her or him confidence.
Several state governments, including those of Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal had, however, resisted the move, citing Covid-19 pandemic and lack of infrastructure.
The Delhi government had pointed out accessibility issues in conducting online classes. It submitted that “in Delhi’s State universities, best efforts were made to conduct online classes, but the reality of our digital divide is that online classes are not accessible equally by all”.
Due to such issues, Delhi asserted that “the students did not get the kind of preparation needed to attempt a full-fledged examination”.
The court had reserved its judgment in the case on 18 August.
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