Delhi HC directs Delhi University to provide scribes to visually impaired students at CSCs for online exams

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The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed Delhi University to provide writers for visually impaired students at common service centres (CSCs) for online Open Book Examinations (OBE) for final year undergraduate courses, if they have opted for one.

The high court also said the DU will ensure that no such student is deprived of a scribe at the CSC if the varsity has been informed in advance.

The CSCs have been set up for those students who do not have infrastructure to appear for the OBE

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, conducting the hearing via video conferencing, directed the varsity to also provide at least two reading material or text books of each paper to the visually handicapped students and granted one week’s time to the students to make the request the DU.

The bench noted that senior advocate S K Rungta, representing the National Federation of the Blind, has graciously agreed to provide assistive devices to the visually impaired students.

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It further asked the varsity to revert with the exact date of declaration of results of students who will take part in the online OBE and also the date of physical examinations, which will be conducted after OBE.

The court recorded that DU will give provisional admission to students in its postgraduate courses, subject to them clearing the entrance exam.

It also agreed with the suggestion of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioner Prateek Sharma, to seek an affidavit from DU on giving provisional admission to students in PG courses.

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It asked the university to also give the number of students who registered and logged in the online examination and listed the matter for further hearing on August 17.

DU is scheduled to hold final year undergraduate online OBE from August 10-31 and the students who will be left out of online exams will be given an opportunity to appear in physical examinations, to be held sometime in September.

The court asked the varsity to ensure that digital certificates/ results are sent to students through e-mail so that students need not go to the college.

The high court was hearing pleas by law student Prateek Sharma and National Federation of Blind seeking to set up effective mechanisms for visually impaired and specially-abled students so that educational instructions can be transmitted to them properly and teaching material is provided to them through online mode of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the hearing, Rungta said OBE is out of question for visually impaired students without reading material.

One of the professors of DU, who is looking into the issues faced by students of persons with disability (PwD) category, said visually impaired students get the material converted on their own.

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He said the university cannot prepare in one week’s time or a month’s time and they cannot buy the devices and they have no funding.

To this, the bench said these are extraordinary times. Don’t throw the rule book on the students.

Senior advocate Sachin Dutta, representing the DU, said the university never provided reading material to students and they only prescribed books.

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The bench shot back, “You never had OBE also. There has never been a pandemic like this in the world. This surely answers you. If you point one finger on them, four fingers will be pointed at you.” The court had earlier made it clear that it was the DU’s responsibility to make available scribes for visually impaired students or else the process of online OBE would be a “mockery” for them.

It had earlier questioned the DU of its lack of preparedness and facilities, including arrangement of scribes and CSE Centers, for differently abled students to enable them to appear in the online OBE.4

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