UGC GUIDELINES TO CONDUCT FINAL EXAMS- HOW JUST?
The global spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) is already having a massive impact on universities and schools around the world. Students all over the world are being affected as more and more educational institutions have been forced to cancel classes. But how long? Can’t be said. Under such circumstances, methods of distance learning such as online education have been adopted. Though this mode of education is a step towards the commercialization and privatization in the country, it is discriminative towards the economically weaker students that are losing access to higher education. Life under quarantine is more challenging than expected. In the light of such pandemic, initially, several states had decided to cancel the final-year exams but the UGC guidelines on 7th July directed an offline-online hybrid mode of exams for final year students.
By putting students’ careers at stake under such circumstances, is it a sound decision to make? When the UGC itself says that its guidelines are advisory, then they must be tailored to the local needs.
Weeks after the UGC decision to conduct final examinations drew a widespread outrage of students and hashtags like #cancelfinalyearexams and #studentlivesmatter started trending. Students took to social media to protest against UGC’s decision. Over a dozen students from across the country have moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of UGC guidelines.
Provisions that UGC violates:
Violative of Section 12 of The University Grants Commission Act
UGC has failed to stick to its statutory duty to formulate such guidelines, ‘in consultation with the Universities or other bodies concerned’ which has been mentioned in Section 12 of the UGC Act. Further, the section specifies that UGC can only ‘recommend’ or ‘advise’ the universities but cannot ‘enforce’. However, it has been submitted that the UGC relied upon the recommendations of the Kuhad Committee, but this committee cannot be construed as either University or other bodies as mention in the above-mentioned section. The Kuhad Committee only consisted of academicians alone and not of any health expert or epidemiologists, which fails to qualify the statutory test of Section 12 of the UGC Act.
Violative of Section 22 of The University Grants Commission Act
The claim of UGC that it won’t provide degrees to those students who don’t appear in final year examination violates Section 22 (1) of the UGC Act that mentions that the "Right of conferring or granting degrees shall be exercised only by a University".
Violative of Regulation 6.3 of the UGC Regulations, 2003
It has been mandated in Regulation 6.3 of the UGC that the nature of final examination, in respect of each course, shall be known to the students ‘at the beginning of the academic session’ whereas UGC stated the format after the academic session of the final year students ended. Hence, violating Regulation 6.3 of its act.
Violative of Article 14 of the Constitution
Article 14, the right to equality is being hampered to those who are unable to appear the examinations due to the existing pandemic situation as compared to those who are capable to appear the examinations. The UGC guidelines discriminate between the final year students who will be forced to appear the examination and the intermediate year students who have been exempted.
Violative of Article 21 of the Constitution
Right to Health and Right to Life as enshrined Article 21 of the Constitution is also being violated by the UGC guidelines.
Violative of Unlock-3 Guidelines
The impugned guidelines also violate Unlock-3 Guidelines issued by the MHA, which direct that all schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed till August 31, 2020.
The online mode of examination cannot substitute classroom experience, it can merely just supplement it.
The UGC guidelines have plunged students into uncertainty, it is important to keep in mind that different students have different access. Students belonging to Assam, Bihar, and other northeastern states that are witnessing incessant flood have been completely ignored. Parents of the affected students are facing the utmost financial distress due to reduced financial opportunities amid this pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, accommodations across India have become difficult. Further, the decision to conduct final year examination has been taken whimsically, without consulting other stakeholders, like doctors, teachers, students, universities and colleges, etc. thus making the basis of the said decision misplaced. In such a situation it is utterly unjust and unfair by the UGC to come up with this decision.