The Supreme Court of India on Friday held that state or union territory governments will not be allowed to promote students without holding final year university examinations but they can postpone the exams.
The court said states have the liberty to postpone the exams beyond the 30 September deadline in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) can postpone exams overriding UGC guidelines. However, SDMA cannot direct universities to pass students based on previous performances", the court said.
The order was pronounced by a three-judge bench while hearing a petition challenging the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) 6 July circular. The plea sought to reject the guidelines mandating all universities in the country to conduct the examination for final year students before 30 September.
The UGC is a government-established statutory body responsible for coordinating, determining, and maintaining standards of higher education in India.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the UGC, said the decision was for the benefit of students, as universities have to start admissions for postgraduate courses and state authorities cannot override the UGC guidelines.
The UGC had mentioned that final examinations are a crucial step in the academic year of a student and the state government cannot say that its 6 July directive was not binding.
Ever since the guidelines were issued, students across India have argued that compelling students to physically appear for exams when the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening, is actually exposing them to serious health risks.
Students also say that the uniform direction issued by the UGC, without taking into account local situations, will put several students’ lives at risk as several areas are containment zones and local lockdowns prevail in many regions.