The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Maharashtra Government to respond to public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the June 19 Government Resolution (GR) related to conducting university exams and assessments for final year students. The PIL said that as the University Grants Commission (UGC) being the regulating authority, the state was not empowered to decide and announce the mode of assessment for final year students, and hence the GR should be set aside and quashed.
The Court asked that the UGC be made a party to the case and directed the state to file a reply to the plea within a week’s time.
The state Higher and Technical Education department on June 19 had issued a notification stating the Maharashtra government was not willing to conduct exams for professional and non-professional courses due to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic and had said that exams for final year non-professional courses can be conducted at a later stage whenever possible.
A division bench of Justices A A Sayed and MS Karnik on Tuesday heard through videoconference, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Dhananjay Raghunath Kulkarni from Pune, a retired teacher through advocate Uday Warunjikar seeking to stay the GR.
The plea stated, “There is an artificial classification made by state amongst the students who are admitted to professional and non-professional courses. If the state government is not going to conduct examinations for non-professional courses in view of apprehension of a coronavirus outbreak, there is no reason to conduct exams for professional courses either. There is no logic behind the decision and it is arbitrary and unreasonable and therefore court’s intervention is required.”
The plea further stated that the GR gave an option to students to appear for exams or accept average marks based on past performance and there cannot be two methods of assessment while granting final degree to the students from non-professional courses. “Such exercise is unknown to the educational field and therefore there is non-application of mind on the part of the state.”
The PIL claimed that the state government, as per the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, was not empowered to take such a decision and UGC’s decision shall prevail and therefore the decision was beyond the purview of the provisions of UGC Act.
The plea stated, “The hanging sword of uncertainty is faced by final year students and GR is not clear as to when the exams will be conducted and the academic year will get over. “Fate of a large number of students who wish to take admission for the post-graduation courses is kept in a hanging situation.”
Stating this, the petitioner sought from the Court to quash and set aside the GR and pending hearing, sought a stay on the same. Directing the state to file a response to the plea within a week, the Court posted further hearing on July 17.
Meanwhile, on July 6, the UGC in its meeting decided that it will not recommend cancellation of the final semester (or final-year) examination. Universities and colleges will be advised to assess the graduating batch through an examination conducted in either online or offline or blended mode. The regulator also decided to tweak its alternative calendar and advise institutions to hold exams by September-end.
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