The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to defer the civil services preliminary examination scheduled for October 4 but asked the authorities to consider a possible concession for aspirants unable to take their last shot at the exam due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar asked the authorities to ensure that candidates with admit cards were able to find suitable accommodations near the exam centres/sub-centres.
The court said security and health protocols should be followed strictly. It agreed with the UPSC that any further delay in the conduct of the exam would have a “cascading effect” on future ones.
The examination is scheduled to be held at 72 centres (2569 sub-centres) across the country.
The Bench referred to an affidavit, which mentioned a letter from the Cabinet Secretary on September 1 to the State Chief Secretaries to make special provisions to avoid any inconveniences to candidates and exam functionaries.
The UPSC, through advocate Naresh Kaushik, said its logistical arrangements were complete. It had requested the Chief Secretaries to ensure the running of public transport system on October 3 and 4. It had also written to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Railway Board to ensure trains are run across sectors to transport 10.58 lakh candidates who have enrolled for the civil services prelims.
Social distancing norms
The UPSC said social distancing norms have been put in place and coordinating supervisors across the 72 centres asked to ensure the smooth movement of candidates from micro-containment zones based on the e-Admit Cards without violating any Central/State government guidelines.
The Commission said it had spent approximately ₹50.39 crore on the preparations for the exam. As of September 28, 6,87,648 candidates have downloaded their admit cards.
The exam was scheduled for May 31, but shifted to October 4 due to the pandemic lockdown and restrictions, it stated.
“It is imperative that the vacancies in the services are filled up in time so that the public services do not suffer due to lack of manpower in the right place in right point of time. Over the years, a cycle has evolved involving recruitment, training and final appointment ensuring that the government gets its requisite manpower on time. Any disruption at any stage has the potential of upsetting the entire cycle not only for once but is likely to have cascading effects in future as well”, the UPSC affidavit said.
The calendar of examination of 2021 had been placed on the website in which the Civil Services (Preliminary)Examination, 2021, is scheduled to be held on July 27, 2021, it noted.
“Due to postponement of Civil Services (Prel.) Examination, 2020, the Main (written) parts of both these examinations have to be shifted to 2021. Any postponement of the Civil Services (Prel.) Examination, 2020 will not only impact the examinations which are lined up during the remaining part of current year, but will also entail further rescheduling of both the Main examinations as also the 2nd stage examinations of other examinations including their interviews, thereby impacting the examination calendar of the year 2020 as well as 2021”, the affidavit said.
The Commission, in case of any further postponement, would not be in a position to declare the final result of the Civil Services Examination, 2020, before the Civil Services (Prel.) Examination, 2021.
“Though there is a pandemic situation, life has to go on and the career of students cannot be put to peril”, it pointed out.