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A bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan reserved the verdict and said it would also decide that the states would have to confer powers under the Disaster Management Act so that the final examination could be postponed until the status of COVID-19 returned to normal.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the UGC, told the court that the case was a political somersault by the Maharashtra government.
He said that on 6 May, the state of Maharashtra constituted a state level committee by the Minister of Higher and Technical Education. His own committee recommended that the exam be conducted, Mehta said.
“I should emphasize one thing that the time limit was given for the benefit of the students. It is not dictate. All universities have to start admissions to postgraduate courses. The country is working. These students are 20/21 years old. . Really think they are not going out? The Solicitor General protested.
He argued that the UGC’s instructions are to ensure that students’ degrees are awarded to them at the very last, it is only for their interest.
Mehta referred to the standard operating procedure laid down by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and said that the SOP talks about thermal scanning, masks, social disturbances, and was approved so as to ensure that the students’ health was sound .
Senior advocate Vijay Navre, appearing for the senior teachers, told the court that the Maharashtra government’s decision not to conduct the university examination was “politically motivated”.
The Yuva Sena, which has come to court for cancellation of the examination, was led by the minister’s son, Navare.
The Attorney General of Odisha stated that it is not possible to conduct a conventional examination under the current status of COVID-19. He highlighted that it would be an important task for hostels to accommodate students, colleges have closed since March and homeowners will not be ready to accommodate students.
Under the present circumstances, it would be completely impossible for the state to conduct the examination as mandated by the UGC, with Odisha at its peak, the Attorney General continued.
The UGC, through an affidavit, had earlier told the Supreme Court that the Delhi and Maharashtra government’s decision to cancel the last term exam would “directly affect the standards of higher education in the country”.
The affidavit was filed in a batch of petitions challenging the UGC’s July 6 circular and sought to cancel the final term examination in view of the COVID-19 status.
Earlier, the governments of Delhi and Maharashtra had told the apex court that they had canceled the examination in the states.
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