A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah reserved the judgement on whether final year degree examinations in universities should be held before September 30, in accordance with the UGC guidelines.
The apex court had asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) that if there is a certain situation in a state, could it override the state government and take a position on the schedule of the exams.
On August 18, in a marathon hearing which lasted for close to four hours, the apex court had heard the arguments from a battery of senior advocates appearing for various stakeholders, including Arvind P. Datar (for Maharashtra government), Jaideep Gupta (for teachers from West Bengal), K.V. Viswanathan (Delhi government) and the Advocate General for Odisha and West Bengal, while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the UGC.
The state governments have argued that they have the power to promote students without exams in the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The bench had queried Mehta if the UGC could override a state government decision, where a certain situation like Covid-19 is existing. Mehta had submitted before the bench that Covid-19 is a national disaster and it is for the Centre to decide, and the state authorities cannot override the UGC.
The bench said that like the disaster management authority of the state has the authority in healthcare, can the UGC override the state and ask it to conduct exams?
The bench added, “May be the UGC can say no degree without exam. But can it say hold an exam on this date?”
Mehta contended that the deadline was given for the benefit of the students. “It is not a diktat. All universities must start admissions for postgraduate courses,” he said.
Advocate Alak Alok Srivastava, appearing for a group of students, contended that the decision of the committee which made the recommendations making it mandatory to hold exams by September 30 cannot be implemented across the country, as there was no proper consultation.