Can’t allow students to appear physically for Exams due to Coronavirus situation: Govt to Bombay HC

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The Maharashtra Government reiterated its position before the Bombay High Court that it cannot allow the conduct of final year examinations of professional and non-professional courses in view of the Covid-19 situation.

The state government told the court that it had appealed to the apex bodies of the respective courses to oversee issues related to the conduct of final year exams and permit degrees issued by the universities to allow the students to commence further studies or work.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Anuja Prabhudesai was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Maharashtra government’s June 19 decision to not hold examinations for final-year professional and non-professional courses due to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic. Few intervention pleas were filed raising concerns over conducting examinations.

However, the PIL, filed by a retired professor and Pune resident Dhananjay Raghunath Kulkarni through advocate Uday Warunjikar, stated that the University Grants Commission( UGC) is the regulating authority in such matters, and the state was not empowered to decide the mode of assessment for final year students, and hence the government resolution should be set aside and quashed.

The high court on July 7 had said that UGC should be made a respondent and directed the state to respond within a week’s time.

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Advocate R V Govilkar for Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) submitted that examinations for postgraduate medical courses had to be conducted as the students had to be assessed physically to ascertain their skills, comprehension and hence MUHS would conduct the exams for them from August 25. However, he said that a decision regarding undergraduate medical exams is yet to be taken and the meeting for the same had been conducted on Thursday.

Advocate Kuldeep Nikam, appearing for one of the petitioners Akash Udaysing Rajput, sought interim reliefs pertaining to dental courses exams scheduled to start on August 3. Nikam submitted that as per directions issued by the authority, students had to reach exam centres and also need to undergo quarantine. A Dental college in Mumbai had conveyed that it did not have sufficient facilities for providing quarantine facilities to the students and therefore exams should be cancelled, Nikam argued. In view of this, he sought that exams be held online instead of asking students to appear in person.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said that the state was firm in its stand that exams cannot be conducted physically. The state submitted an affidavit in response to the PIL through Dhanraj Mane, Director of the Directorate of Higher Education, and said that conscious decision was taken to cancel exams of final year students of professional and non-professional courses in view of prevailing Covid-19 situation in the state.

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The state government said that the coronavirus can spread through medium of paper from infected person to another and conducting exams involves handling of papers by several human beings.

The affidavit said, “Therefore, it is inherently dangerous from the point of view of public safety and safety of students to permit holding of such examinations by the Universities in the state looking at the present COVID-19 situation.”

The state government further stated that final examination is only one among many examinations that a student gives during an entire length of the respective educational course.

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Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said that in order to avoid confusion, a compilation of all pleas and intervention applications related to conducting exams can be compiled together and can be submitted to the court.

After hearing submissions, the bench accepted Kumbhakoni’s suggestion and directed all parties to submit their affidavits in reply by Tuesday, July 21 and posted all the pleas for further hearing on July 31.

Moreover, the HC heard a PIL by Samarvir Singh, student of Government Law College, Mumbai seeking to declare results of the final year law exams on the basis of their previous assessment or internal assessment as a one-time measure for academic year 2019-20.

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Failing which, final year students will miss out on applying for higher studies in India or abroad and appear for competitive exams in absence of results.

Responding to the plea, AG Kumbhakoni said that the state had communicated to the apex bodies, including Bar Council, not to conduct exams and declare results based on previous assessment. HC sought response from state and Bar Council of India on Singh’s plea and posted it for further hearing on July 31.

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