The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Friday told the Bombay High Court that the Maharashtra government does not have the power to cancel final year examinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University Grants Commission or UGC filed the affidavit in response to a petition filed by Dhananjay Kulkarni, a retired teacher and former university senate member from Pune. Mr. Kulkarni had challenged the state government’s decision to cancel examinations of final year students of both professional and non-professional courses.
The state government, keeping in view of the current COVID-19 situation, had canceled final year examinations to be conducted in the state universities and professional colleges last month by stating that it has the power to do so under the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act.
The UGC has issued two separate guidelines on April 29 and July 6, 2020, asking all universities and institutions across the country to conduct exams by the end of September 2020. In a related development of Thursday, a group of 31 students has filed a petition against the UGC on its decision to compulsorily conduct final year exams by September-end. The case has been listed for the hearing on July 27. The students, from Karnataka, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Meghalaya, and many other states, have sought to quash the UGC notice released on July 6, in which the Commission has asked universities to compulsorily conduct the final year exams by September 30.
The guidelines were issued after the Union Ministry of Home Affairs allowed holding of examinations by universities and other institutions, the UGC said. The guidelines were issued to protect the academic and career interests of students and at the same time safeguard their health, it said.
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Contrary to the recommendations, the state of Maharashtra under the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act canceled all the university and college exams in the state. Several other states have taken similar measures including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Harayana amid the rising COVID-19 cases.
Last week, Yuva Sena from Maharashtra led by Aditya Thackerey, state cabinet minister, had moved to Supreme Court against the Commission’s decision for universities and colleges to conduct the final year examinations. Thackeray had made a statement saying that the Commission’s decision to conduct the exam amid COVID-19 pandemic is “absolutely absurd and probably from an alternate universe”.