The Delhi High Court has slammed Delhi University (DU) for “withholding material information” on postponement of the online open-book examinations (OBE) from the court in an ongoing case, and said “contempt proceedings ought to be initiated against the university for ‘misleading’ the court.”
DU was to conduct OBE for its final year/semester students from July 1, however, amid massive opposition from teachers and students of all political hues, the university announced on June 27 that it is postponing the exams for 10 days “in view of the prevailing situation of Covid-19 pandemic”.
A notice has been issued to DU and Dean Examinations Vinay Gupta in this regard, to which they have to reply within three days, following which the petitioners will have two days to respond. The next date of hearing is July 6.
In their order on June 29, Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said that in the previous hearing on June 26, they had “proposed to dispose of” the petition to cancel or defer OBE for PWD students “as it appeared to us on the basis of the submissions made before us that the respondent No.4/Delhi University was thoroughly geared up to conduct the Open Book Examinations that were to commence on July 1.”
“We had informed learned counsel that the order would be passed in the course of the day and thereafter, it will be uploaded on the website of the High Court,” the HC said in its order.
However, on June 27 “after the order had been dictated but before it could be uploaded on the website”, Justice Kohli “came across a press report” that said DU was postponing exams for 10 days “in view of the prevailing situation of COVID-19 pandemic”.
“This came as a surprise to us, when just a day before, the respondent No4/Delhi University had shown its complete preparedness for conducting the OBE w.e.f. July 1,” the order said, adding that Justice Kohli then asked the Court Master to “verify the factual position” from the DU counsel, which was confirmed by June 27 evening.
The Delhi HC in its order said that on June 29 when Vinay Gupta, who was present in the hearing along with DU advocates, was asked as to why the court was not informed of the decision to postpone exams on June 26 itself, “the only explanation offered by him, which is not a part of any press release, is that the mother of Dr. S. Rangabhasham, Deputy Registrar (Secrecy) was suspected of suffering from Covid-19 infection on June 24 and it was discovered in the afternoon of June 26 at 02:20 PM, that she was Covid-19 positive.”
“We may note that the High Court functions up to 04:30 PM, as a matter of routine and the hearing in this case had virtually got over at around 2.00 PM. In other words, if the stand of the respondent No.4/Delhi University is correct that because a family member of Dr. S. Rangabhasham, Deputy Registrar (Secrecy) had gone down with Covid-19 infection and the University came to know that the entire family had to be quarantined only after the matter was over, then there was enough time for the respondent No.4/Delhi University to have reverted back to this Court on the same day or at least the next morning and apprise us of the said developments and the decision taken to defer the examinations by 10 days,” the HC said in its order.
“In view of the aforesaid conduct, we are prima facie of the opinion that contempt proceedings ought to be initiated against the respondent No.4/Delhi University and its officers for withholding material information from the court and trying to mislead the court,” it added.
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