Facts of the Case
A bench of Justice Avinash Gharote heard the PIL that sought online examinations or vaccination of almost 40, 000 UG students before giving the examination that is going to last for 20 days over 173 centers.
Arguments before the Court
Advocate Rahul Bhangde, representing the Petitioners had requested to make sure that at least the students should enter the exam halls with adequate precautions. However, the bench declined the request. Further, the petitioner also demanded that at least RT-PCR tests of the students should be done before they are allowed to enter the examination halls.
“No amount of money can bring a child back from death and sacrifice the life of the future generation of the nation is not an example the respondents should set”
The PIL, which was filed last week had also sought to declare the MUHS’s May 19 circular to be declared “arbitrary and unreasonable,” it being violative of Articles 14 (Right to equality) and 21 (Right to Life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
“The priority must be to vaccinate the students…The petitioners submit that vaccination comes first and examination comes second. This sequence would conform with Article 21 of the constitution of India as it would ensure that the students would be protected by the vaccine against the virus.”
It also challenged the State’s notice asking students to sign an undertaking absolving the State of all responsibility if the students contracted Covid-19 after the exam.
“…The respondent being the State cannot within the meaning of Article 12 contract out of their fundamental duty to protect the lives of the citizen.”
On the other hand, MUHS argued via Advocate Abhijit Deshpande, that the students approached the court at the last hour and that the examinations were repeatedly postponed, and a final schedule was announced only on May 19, 2021. It also said that they have provided schemes for covering the families of students who contract the virus or in case of an unfortunate fatality due to their attendance in the examination.
Further, it was argued that, only the third and the final phase of examinations remain and that since there is a shortage of vaccines, it should be taken up in a separate plea.
Observations by the Court
On the first request, the bench said, “Once a student has opted to take the examination it is for him to take all the measures. They are going to be future doctors”, the bench said.
The bench has also asked the MUHS counsel to clarify if students can be asked to take RT-PCR tests before entering the hostel and examination.
Justice Gharote observed that there was a pressing shortage of vaccines and that the University had given students a choice not to give the examination in December. He said:
“You want to enter a noble profession, and you are afraid of contracting the disease? What is going to be the fate of citizens if a would-be doctor is losing courage?”
The court adjourned the matter till the next hearing scheduled for the 6th of June when it will take a decision on whether RT-PCR tests would be conducted for the students or not.
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