The Delhi High Court issued a notice to Common Service Academy which got directions from the Delhi University to enable the outstation of final year students for the online, open-book examination.
Brief Facts of the Case
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had been aggravating over the past few days. Amid this mayhem, many Colleges had decided to conduct examinations to maintain the academic progress of students and to ensure the prime quality of education despite the current situation. They had also decided to prevent any drawback for the students in the future. For this, the Delhi University had decided to conduct examinations. It had conducted online mock exams so that the students could be aware of the online examination platform. During this, several of them had faced technical glitches and were thus worried about the exams.
For further simplification, the authority permitted Open Book Examinations. A petition got filed concerning the above issues. The DU had scheduled to hold final year undergraduate online OBE from August 10th to 31st. The students who are excluded from online exams had the opportunity to appear for physical examinations. This would happen sometime in September. It had also decided that the first phase of mock tests would begin from July 27th and the second phase would begin from August 1st.
The Petitioner stated that the students should get at least 24 hours to submit their answer sheets due to technical glitches. The Counsel intervenor for the students pointed out that the University was not complying with the earlier orders. This was on sending the question paper by email, stopping the clock for 30 mins in case of a technical glitch, etc.
Senior Advocate Sachin Dutta had represented the Delhi University. He stated that the CSCs functioned under the aegis of the Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India. Advocate M Rupal added that Delhi University had signed an MoU with the CSC Academy. This was to provide logistical assistance to it for the online examination amid COVID-19. Delhi University had contended that they were holding online exams. It was in view of the UGC guidelines, which made it mandatory to conduct final year examinations.
Senior Advocate Dutta assured the Court that all its orders would be duly complied with. He stated that the first mock was only for the limited purpose of “downloading and uploading” the question paper. He also stated these directions are must to follow during the real-time test. Apurv Kurup was the counsel for the UGC. He told the Court that 24 hours duration for submission would raise questions about the “sanctity” of the examinations.
A single-judge bench of Justice Pratibha M Singh had been set up. The hearing occurred via video conferencing. The order got passed after they received the notice of the poor condition of infrastructure at CSCs. The Court got information that the CSCs run at the village panchayat level in the form of a public cafe. Professionals did not run them as such.
The Court had directed the CEO of CSC Academy to list out all the centres which are suitable for the examination and state their preparedness. It also perused the report submitted by the UGC’s committee, headed by Professor R C Kuhad on final guidelines. On the last date of hearing, the Court had asked UGC to clarify if they are including MCQs, Assignments, presentations, etc. for final year students. The Court asked the Counsel for DU to seek instructions if any other organization was also engaged in conducting exams. Besides CSC Academy, the varsity conducts exams in-house. The Court remarked:
“Sanctity has to be balanced with the kind of facilities which are available with us.”
Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta informed the Court that challenges to the UGC guidelines on several grounds were pending before the Supreme Court. The Court opined that the cases before it and the orders of Supreme Court might include certain overlapping issues. Thus, considered it appropriate to delay the hearing. It also observed that unlike other universities across the globe, Delhi University had not been helping its students.
The Court will hear the main petition on July 30th.
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