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UGC Matter, SC reserved the Judgement | Read detailed Chronology of Hearing

In today’s hearing in UGC’s matter, in the first session Adv. Alakh Alok Srivastava attempts to make a submission, but the Bench notes that they will hear his submissions later. He filed his synopsis of written submission yesterday, and today petitioner would get very minimal time to make a verbal submission in SC. 

Next Date of Hearing is - 

In between 12.30pm matters comes before the court an here is the main points of the today's submission. 

Updates regarding the UGC matter Submission is going on - 

Points covered by the Petitioners Advocates/Chronology of the submission - 

  • Adv. Alakh Alok Srivastava begins his submissions.

  • Srivastava: These exams will directly affect the health of lakhs of students. Section 12 of UGC requires consultation and the consultation should include public health experts.

  • Srivastava: Section 14 of the UGC Act says that if a University fails to comply with UGC Guidelines, UGC can stop giving it grants. That’s the widest scope.

  • Alakh Alok: Further, the nature of the exams should be told to the students at the beginning of the semester. The session began in July 2020. Of course the pandemic could not be foreseen.

  • Alakh Alok: Coming to the constitutional arguments, my predecessor who has passed out, they will be treated on a different footing and I will be disadvantaged. This is against Art. 14.

  • Alakh Alok further highlights that there are flood-affected areas as well which impede the conduct of exams. Bench notes that these arguments have been made before.

  • Adv. Kishor Lambat, for the Intervenor, makes his submissions. He highlights that there are parents who have lost jobs and students are facing hardships.

  • Sr. Adv. PS Narasimha commences his submissions.

  • Narasimha: Many students, for going to higher education abroad, it is to be noted that the final examination is absolutely necessary.

  • Narasimha highlights the importance of the final-year examination in assessing the capability of a student, even for purposes of higher education.

  • Narasimha: There are students who put in a lot of hope in their last exam. They think that “final exam aayega toh karenge”. By doing away with the exam, meritorious students will jeopardised.

  • Narasimha: Further, life must go on ! Government is functioning, Courts are functioning. We must be resilient in this matter. In this context, UGC has given the COVID guidelines.

  • Narasimha: I don’t think the Guidelines given by UGC contravene the issues of health as Vishwanathan has said. We must move forward.

  • Sr. Adv. Vinay Navare now makes his submissions.

  • Navare: Apart from the pandemic, one cannot say that there is no legal soundness in the decision of UGC.

  • Navare: The decision taken by UGC is within the four corners of its powers. It does not exceed their powers.

  • Navare: I must raise the issue that students seeking for examinations not to be held cannot be heard under Article 32 at all.

  • Navare: At the most, in its widest amplitude, the deadline can be moved. But, States cannot be directed to not hold the exams at all.

  • Navare: This is not an opportunity to gain popularity amongst students by Chief Ministers of States. The DMA does not give the SDMA any power to do this.

  • Navare: The only powers conferred upon a State is under Section 8. There is no other provision which gives powers to the State. In fact, even VC is given the power, but not the State.

  • Navare: In this context, UGC completely has the power to mandate the conduction of exams. But, yes, the deadline of September 30 must be left to the individual Universities.

  • Navare: So, I completely support the UGC Guidelines.

  • Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta now begins his submissions.

  • SG: Your Lordship has the jurisdiction to set this aside. But, I will put forth the contours of the jurisdiction.

  • SG: First the Bench needs to decide who is superior. I don’t want to make this into a Centre v. State argument. But, let us look at the UGC Act and its powers.
  • Connection with the Bench has been lost. SG: Must be an electricity problem. I am having the problem too. KV Vishwanathan: Imagine the plight of the students !

  • Sr. Adv. KV Vishwanathan asks SG Mehta about how he deals with the physical files during COVID times. SG responds, but no sound comes. Vishwanathan: Oh, you are muted. For a change !

  • Bench is getting connected. Matter has now resumed.

  • SG Mehta continues his submissions. He refers to the compilations wherein the UGC Guidelines are enumerated.

  • The hearing in Students vs UGC matter has resumed in the Supreme Court after a short connection problem in the Video Conferencing. Solicitor General making submissions.

  • SG: On 6th May, State of Maharashtra constituted a State-level Committee by Minister of Higher and Technical Education. Their own committee recommended the conduct.

  • SG: It was their committee and their observations that the exams can be conducted. And the State accepted their report. But, I am not concerned only with Maharashtra.

  • SG: There was a political somersault by the Maharashtra government in this matter.

  • SG now refers to the chain of events in a chronological manner, including the decision of MHA to reduce the extent of the lockdown.

  • Solicitor General submits that there is a "political somersault" behind Maharashtra govt decision to cancel exams after its State Committee recommended exams on May 6.

  • SG now refers to Divan’s arguments of last week about how the government wasn’t functioning. He further states that the MHA’s guidelines could make the restrictions stricter.

  • SG: Now, responding to Dr. Singhvi’s manifestly arbitrary argument, the conduction of the final-year exam is a must. One cannot say that holding it is arbitrary.

  • SG now refers to the MHA Guidelines which have been referred to in the past few months. He also refers to the Guidelines for the conduct of examinations.

  • SG: Presently many Universities have conducted the exams - online, offline, and in hybrid mode.

  • SG: The performance in examination brings in scholarship and recognition, and job opportunities. I want to now show the application of mind and consideration of the ground situation.

  • SG now refers to the Standard Operating Procedure which lays down the dos and don’ts that has been vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

  • SG: The SOP talks about thermal scanning, masks, social distancing, and this was approved so as to ensure that students’ health was fine.

  • SG: The UGC and other Regulators exist for the protection of interests of stakeholders. Here, students are the main stakeholders.

  • SG: The UGC’s directions are meant to ensure that the degrees of the students are provided to them at the lastest. It is for their interest only.

  • SG now refers to State of Maharashtra’s 13 July affidavit. SG: What is the position ? We are not only dealing with 4-5 states. It is a pan-India issue.

  • SG now attempts to show the Bench statistics regarding all the States. The Bench directs him to submit a short note and to begin on the legal submission.

  • SG: UGC Act derives its power from Entry 66 of List 1 in Schedule 7. I want to draw your attention to Section 12 which provides functions of University.

  • SG: Regulation 6(1) of 2003 Regulations is regarding the minimum standard for giving the first degree. Plus, the University must adhere to it. There is a statutory mandate here.

  • SG: The limited point that I am making is that the Guidelines have a statutory mandatory force. SG now refers to a 2005 judgment.

  • SG now refers to a 2013 judgment of “Maha Vaishno Devi Mahila Vishwavidyalaya v. State of UP”.

  • SG: I am now directly coming to the arguments based on the Disaster Management Act.

  • SG: I don’t wish to travel in the area of whether Centre is supreme or State is Supreme. The Act is designed in a way that a disaster can be a local disaster or a disaster can be pan-India.

  • SG: For instance, disaster in Gujarat is a local disaster, which is area-based. Now come to the definition of the term “Central Government”. And “disaster” means a catastrophe, mishap. calamity etc.

  • Bench: This much is clear. The only question that needs to be answered is whether a University’s decision can override the Guidelines.

  • SG: Under this Act, the Central Government does have the supremacy to decide.

  • Bench asks SG Mehta that if there is a certain situation in a State, can the UGC override the State and mandate for the exams to still be held? How can that happen?

  • SG makes a final submission that the entire country is working. “The students are 21-22 year olds. Can you really believe that they will not be going out ?”

  • SG finally notes that the Universities can seek for the deadline to be pushed, however, they cannot take the decision to confer degrees without holding exams.

  • Supreme Court now closes the hearing. All Counsels have been directed to submit a note on their submissions within three days.

  • SC Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan reserves the judgment in the batch of pleas challenging UGC Guidelines which mandate for final-year exams to be conducted by Sept. 30.


What is the Demand of the petitioners?
That Impugned Guidelines dated 06.07.2020, vide which the Respondent
No.1 UGC has directed all Universities/Colleges across India to conduct final year Examinations by 30.09.2020, are legally as well constitutionally untenable and thus liable to be outrightly set aside.

Important Points Covered in verbal submission.

These Points Asserted in today - 

1.   Section 12 of UGC act
2.   Report of Kuhad Committee and no involvement of any health expert in the committee.
3.   UGC has failed to specify the names and other details of the specific Universities or other bodies
4.   Section 14 of the UGC act
5.   Violation of Section 22 (1) of UGC Act
6.   Violation of Regulation 6.3 of the UGC (Minimum Standards of Instruction for the Grant of the First Degree through Formal Education) Regulations, 2003
7.   Violation of Article 21: This Hon'ble Court has held in a plethora of Judgments that "Right to Life" under Article 21 of Constitution of India, includes within its purview, the "Right to Health".
8.   Violation of Article 14: It is respectfully submitted that the Impugned Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 are further violative of the fundamental right to equality of the final year students on many counts.
9.   Violation of Unlock-3 Guidelines:
10.       The Petitioners also asserted that direction from this Hon'ble Court to the Respondents to inter-alia, issue notifications directing all Universities and Employers across India to provisionally admit the final year students of the colleges/ institutions recognized by UGC, in the Admissions to higher classes and/or job opportunities, even in the absence of their final year marksheet/ degrees, till the time they appear in the special examinations to be conducted by UGC.
11. Flood situation of the country. 

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