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UGC v/s Students: The Battle of Right to Exam or Exemption during COVID-19 Pandemic

The UGC, on July 6, ordered final year exams to be conducted till September 30 by online or offline means. The VTU (Visvesvaraya Technological University) opted for offline physical examinations.Advocate Bhargav Bhat who is speaking for the petitioners kindly states, “I am seeking the option of exams also through online.” On being questioned about UGC guidelines, Bhat provides valuable reference of the guidelines released by Union Ministry of Human Resources for conduct of examinations and mentions that the UGC has only decided to conduct exams compulsorily.

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Student vs UGC for exam exemption during COVID19, UGC and student against each others view on exam, exam to be held for final year student-UGC, students file petition in supreme court against UGC direction for exams
Student vs UGC for exam exemption due to COVID19

From the start of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the two very things that people have been worried about are education &examinations and jobs. While both the matters have settled in favour of all the parties involved, there are still some requirements that concern the students.

The UGC (University Grants Commission) had proposed conducting examinations for all final year students as it would not be appropriate to hand a degree without an exam. States like Maharashtra and Delhi rightly disregarded the suggestion and have officially announced final year examinations cancelled in the respective state universities.

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The students v/s UGC case is about students petitioning for the same. The UGC is rigid on its proposal and refuses to accept anything less. The UGC also claims that there was enough time to conduct exams in any way the university saw fit. On Sunday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the UGC, told the Supreme Court that the only body to govern rules for conferring a degree is UGC and that no State’s interference can change the rule. He also said obtaining a degree without appearing for the exam is not in the interest of the students and the decision is to avoid academic failure on the path of the students. The students continued to stress the fact that to avoid infecting themselves and others, unknowingly, the decision had to be altered.

The Delhi Government had already submitted notions of it being impossible to conduct exams given the current circumstances. The Maharashtra Government along with a final year law student, Yash Dubey and 31 others have also stood against UGC’s decision to conduct final year exams.  The petitions were signed by students across Assam, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Meghalaya and other states. The students pleaded to be evaluated on the basis of internal assessment and past examinations.

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Numerous other petitions regarding the same were raised in the Supreme Court which by setting a three-judge bench were discussed. The matters of various petitions initiated by students against the UGC and its decision to conduct all the final year exams by September 30 amidst the pandemic outbreak were taken up. In its latest hearing,the Justice had directed the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) to clear its take on the final year examinations.

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The Supreme Court suggested the involvement of Disaster Management Act considering that an essential pandemic is going on. August 14 is set for the Solicitor General appearing for the UGC to file a response to the petitions and the Disaster Management Act that was brought up along with guidelines and UGC’s very own scheme to help conduct exams safely.

“The sooner this is resolved, the better is it for students” Tushar said. He also mentioned that the students shouldn’t be under the impression of there being no exams and should keep preparing for the final year exam.

The Karnataka High Court has issued notice in a petition challenging UGC’s decision. The prime petitioners are final-year engineering undergraduates at the Bangalore Institute of Technology. Their plea challenges the UGC’s final decision of conducting exams and how it strikes at the roots of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution, tagging it as illegal, arbitrary and onerous. The decision poses harm to students, staff, and the public interest, petitioners point out. The petitioners also state that students who lived away from home and in hostels and paid accommodation were forced to return back to their homes to avoid overcrowding.

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The Ministry of Home Affairs thereafter ordered the closure of educational institutions and a deferral of scheduled university examinations during which capable institutions made efforts to conduct online lectures. Many students were unable to avail even this as they lived in remote areas and could not access the internet ultimately not being to attend online classes. The petitioners also mentioned that their own institution made barely any efforts of arranging online classes so the remaining portion could be completed.

The UGC, on July 6, ordered final year exams to be conducted till September 30 by online or offline means. The VTU (Visvesvaraya Technological University) opted for offline physical examinations.Advocate Bhargav Bhat who is speaking for the petitioners kindly states, “I am seeking the option of exams also through online.” On being questioned about UGC guidelines, Bhat provides valuable reference of the guidelines released by Union Ministry of Human Resources for conduct of examinations and mentions that the UGC has only decided to conduct exams compulsorily.

Bhat says, “Not once VTU has said why it has decided to hold offline exams only. The current situation in Karnataka is not conducive. Travel is a problem, stay is problem. 14 day home quarantine is mandated.” 12 colleges affiliated to VTU are allowed to conduct online exams. The university’s concern is accuracy and authenticity of the exams. They are afraid of illegitimate conduct of exams as the students cannot be monitored while online exams.

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On HC suggesting online exams, Sunil Yadav, University speaker, states that it’s a difficult task for the university. On further pushing, on resuming the hearing, Yadav proposes of exams being conducted in the month of December. The HC points out the fact that with the way the situation is going out of hand, physical examinations may still be a problem by December. Even though UGC guidelines allow online exams, it is ultimately the university’s decision how it wants to conduct the exams.

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VTU is constantly rejecting the idea of online assessments and is not even providing a proper answer as to students’ “WHY”. The HC has strongly stood on its suggestion of online exams.The VTU argues that for that they will have to come with a technical process for online exams, Bhat strikes back by saying “Unprecedented situation needs creative solutions”. To his argument, Bhat also adds that there is viva being conducted by colleges using 6 trustable platforms.

HC asked the university to explore not only its options for conducting exams but also the time period. Bhat has requested that the students should at least be entitled to a provisional degree in case the university fails to do so. As there is no relaxation in being quarantined, students coming back from other states will have to self-quarantine. The HC has asked the university to communicate about the same with the state government and the VTU has also been asked to respond to why they oppose online exams which will now be discussed tomorrow.

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