Decision to cancel final year exams due to COVID-19: HC told
The affidavit, filed by Dhanraj Mane, Director of the Directorate of Higher Education, said a conscious decision was taken to cancel the exams of final year students of these courses in view of the prevailing situation in the state due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Stating that the entire nation was facing a crisis, it said that very little was known about coronavirus in terms of how infects, reacts and affects.
The Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that the decision to cancel the final year degree exams of both professional and non-professional courses was taken in view of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases across the state and due to risk of the spread of the infection through paper. The state government on Wednesday filed its affidavit in response to public interest litigation (PIL), seeking to quash the decision to issue degrees to over 10 lakh final year students of professional and non-professional courses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owing to the lockdown, the state government had cancelled the final year examinations and decided to issue degrees to the final year students by giving them average marks based on their past performance. The affidavit, filed by Dhanraj Mane, Director of the Directorate of Higher Education, said a conscious decision was taken to cancel the exams of final year students of these courses in view of the prevailing situation in the state due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Stating that the entire nation was facing a crisis, it said that very little was known about coronavirus in terms of how infects, reacts and affects. "Few aspects of the virus that are by now well-known and established are that it is highly infectious, contagious and life-threatening and that the same can be spread through handling of paper," the government said in its affidavit.
The government further said that the final examination which a student gives is only one amongst many examinations that a student gives during the entire length of the concerned educational course. The final year examination of students of Higher and Technical Education is not, in the classical sense, a decisive and final examination, which determines the successful completion of the course, the affidavit said.
The government further said that coronavirus spreads through the medium of paper from one infected person to another and conducting exams involves handling of papers by several human beings. "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 affidavit said.
The government further added that it has powers under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act to issue such orders cancelling the exams. It added that a meeting was convened on July 4 with the Vice- Chancellors of various universities in the state and most of them expressed their opinion that it would not be possible to conduct examinations considering the COVID-19 situation.
The petition, filed by one Dhananjay Kulkarni, a retired teacher and an ex-senate member from Pune, said that the state government has no power to take such a decision. He challenged the June 19, 2020 government resolution saying that under the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016 the Chancellor has overall jurisdiction and the state has no power to take a decision about the exams.
As per the plea, the UGC had on April 27, 2020, directed all universities to conduct exams and declare its schedule. However, after a student organisation wrote to the state minister of Higher and Technical Education, the exams in the state were postponed and then subsequently cancelled by way of the resolution.
As per the resolution, there are 7,34,516 students in their final year in non-professional courses and 2,83,937 students in their final year in professional courses in Maharashtra. The petition will be taken up for hearing on July 17.
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