SC upholds UGC exam guidelines but says State disaster management authority can postpone them

The Supreme Court Friday upheld the guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to hold final year/semester examinations latest by September 30.

It also held that the state government could not promote students without the exams as mandated by the UGC guidelines. However, the top court said the State Disaster Management Authority could postpone the exams in view of the pandemic.

“The decision taken by the   State   Disaster Management Authority/State not to hold final year/terminal semester examination by 30.09.2020 in the exercise of power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005   shall prevail over deadline fixed by the University Grants Commission i.e. 30.09.2020 in respect to the concerned State”, the court held.

But to declare students promoted without the exams was not within the purview of the State Disaster Management Authority’s power, the court said.

A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah granted liberty to the state to approach the UGC to seek a postponement of the exams and said new dates, if any, could be fixed only after consultation with the UGC.

The bench further held that the guidelines issued by the UGC were not beyond the domain of the UGC and they related to coordination and determination of standards in institutions of higher education.

The court was ruling on a batch of petitions challenging the decision of the UGC to hold final year/semester exams by September 30.

The plea also sought a direction to the UGC to declare the results of the students of the final year/terminal semester examinations of all universities/ institutions of the country on the basis of their past performance/internal assessment and to award mark sheets and degrees.

In support of its guidelines, the UGC had submitted that its guidelines mandating final year/semester examinations were issued to protect the academic future of students across the country which would be irreparably damaged if their final year/terminal semester examinations were not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety.

UGC had also contended that the decision of Maharashtra Government to hold terminal semester/final year examinations at a later date (which may be even beyond September 2020) or to graduate such students and confer on them degrees without appearing for the final year/ terminal semester examinations was contrary to UGC’s guidelines. The same argument had been made by the UGC against the Delhi Government’s decision to cancel final year/semester examinations.

UGC further stated that the State Government’s decision to defer the final year/ terminal semester examinations or to graduate students without holding examinations was a matter directly affecting the standards of higher education in the country.

Read the Judgment