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SC Decision on UGC Guidelines on Conduct of Examinations

  • 29 Aug 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

The Supreme Court ruled that the states are empowered under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) to override University Grants Commission (UGC) exam guidelines in order to protect human lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • However, it held that universities and other institutions of higher education will have to conduct the final-year exams and cannot promote students on the basis of internal assessment or other criteria.

Key Points

  • Background: The UGC had directed that final year examinations of Universities must be conducted by September-end in online or offline mode. However, the Maharashtra and Delhi governments employed the DM Act, 2005 to cancel the examinations due to Covid-19 to which the UGC objected.
  • Judgement:
    • In case of a disaster, the priority of all authorities under the DM Act is to immediately combat the disaster and contain it to save human life. Saving the life of human beings is given paramount importance.
    • However, the powers of the States under the DM Act do not extend to promoting students on the sole basis of their internal assessment without taking exams.
    • In future, if any State found it impossible to conduct the exams by the deadline given by UGC and wanted to postpone them, it could apply to the UGC, which would consider the request and decide at the earliest.
    • Also, the States and universities cannot dismiss UGC guidelines as being merely advisory. They were necessary for the determination of standards in institutions of higher education and were obligatory for universities.
      • The UGC (Minimum Standards of Instruction for the Grant of the Master’s Degree through Formal Education) Regulations, 2003, categorically requires universities to adopt the guidelines.
    • The court also rejected the argument that compelling attendance by holding physical examination is a violation of the ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21.
      • It pointed out that the revised guidelines take into consideration the fact that the number of Covid cases are rising.
      • They were based on the recommendations of the R.C. Kuhad Expert Committee. They provided three modes of examination - pen and paper, online and blended (both physical and online). A “special chance” was also given to students unable to take the exams.
      • The R.C. Kuhad Expert Committee recommended that exams should be held for Terminal Semester Students while the Intermediate Semester Students should be graded based on internal assessment of the present and previous semester. It also suggested the constitution of a Covid-19 cell in every university.

University Grants Commission (UGC)

  • It came into existence on 28th December, 1953 but became a statutory organization of the Government of India by the UGC Act, 1956, under the Ministry of Education.
  • The UGC`s mandate includes:
    • Promoting and coordinating university education.
    • Determining and maintaining standards of teaching, examination and research in universities.
    • Framing regulations on minimum standards of education.
    • Monitoring developments in the field of collegiate and university education; disbursing grants to the universities and colleges.
    • Serving as a vital link between the Union and state governments and institutions of higher learning.
    • Advising the Central and State governments on the measures necessary for improvement of university.

Way Forward

  • The performance in examinations contributes to merit, lifelong credibility, wider global acceptability and better future prospects to the student. However, the digital divide that exists in the country must be taken into account while going for online conduct of examinations.
  • The Ministry of Education must proactively intervene in the appointments of final year students who have not been able to appear for the examination and come out with policies to defer the requirement of degree certificates for job appointments.

Source: TH

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