The University Grants Commission told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the decision of the Maharashtra and Delhi governments to cancel final year college exams due to Covid was void ab initio (invalid at the outset) and could not override its order to universities to hold the exams by September 30 through online or offline modes, reports Dhananjay Mahapatra.
“Neither the Disaster Management Act, 2005, nor the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, empower the state authority or the state government to take decisions that affect or impact the standards of higher education. Under the UGC Act, it is the UGC alone which is mandated to maintain such standards. Hence, the decisions of the state authority and the state government (to cancel exams) are an encroachment on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education,” the UGC said.
‘NORMS TO PROTECT STUDENTS’ FUTURE’
Final exams crucial step in academic career, says UGC
In an earlier statement, the UGC had said of the 640 universities that had submitted responses, more than 400 had either completed final exams or planned to do so using the prescribed modes.
During the last hearing, solicitor general Tushar Mehta had told an SC bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan that the decision of states to cancel final year examinations would put students in difficulty as degrees awarded without examination may not get UGC recognition. However, the SC had asked the UGC to examine if states could issue such a direction under the Disaster Management Act in view of Covid.
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The UGC, in its affidavit filed through advocate Apoorv Kurup, said Maharashtra could not fall back on the DM Act to encroach on a domain exclusively reserved for the commission. “The State Disaster Management Authority’s June 18 decision not to hold last year final semester examination of professional and nonprofessional courses and the consequent government resolution dated June 19 as well as the state authority’s July 13 decision reiterating non-holding of examination are in violation of the UGC’s April 29 and July 6 guidelines, which must be followed by universities/institutions and, as such, are void ab initio,” it said.
It emphasised the need to conduct terminal or final exams saying it was a crucial step in the academic career of a student. “Therefore, the UGC has issued suchiske page guidelines to protect the academic future of students which will be irreparably damaged if their final year/terminal semester exams are not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety,” it said. Maharashtra could not cite developments “at the grassroots level” to nullify/override the UGC’s guidelines, and allow students to graduate without appearing for final examinations, it added.
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