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Call on holding or scrapping Class XII exams in 2 days

Tuesday, 01 June 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that within next two days it will take a final decision on whether to conduct Class 12 board exams amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Attorney General KK Venugopal told this to a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari which said if the Centre decides to depart from the last year’s policy wherein the remaining exams were cancelled due to the pandemic, then it must give “tangible reasons” for it.

“No issue. You take the decision. You are entitled to it. If you are departing from the policy of last year, then you must give tangible reasons for it,” the bench told Venugopal. Observing that the last year’s decision was taken after deliberations, the Supreme Court said, “If you are departing from that policy, please give us good reasons so that we can examine it.”

The bench was hearing a plea seeking directions to cancel the Class 12 exams of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) amid the pandemic situation.

The SC on June 26, 2020, had approved the schemes of the CBSE and CISCE for cancellations of remaining board examinations scheduled from July 1 to 15 last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also approved their formula for assessment of examinees.

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing on Monday, the Attorney General told the bench, “The government will take a final decision within the next two days. We are hoping that your lordships will give us time till Thursday (June 3) so that we can come back with the final decision”. Venugopal said that last year, board exams for some papers were over before the COVID-19 induced national lockdown was imposed in March 2020.

 “We don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty at this stage. You take the decision. Hope has been expressed by the petitioner that policy adopted last year can be adopted this year too. If you are departing from that, you must have tangible reasons for it,” the bench observed.

To this, Venugopal said, “We will keep this in mind what you (bench) have said.”  “We have no difficulty. You take the decision on what should be appropriate given the situation we are in,” said the court.

During the hearing, petitioner Mamta Sharma raised the issue of difficulty which students, who wish to study abroad after Class 12, might face in case the results are delayed.  “Let them take the decision. Depending on that, we will see. We will consider this on Thursday when the in-principle decision is placed before us,” the bench said.

“List on Thursday (June 3) as requested by the attorney general as the competent authority is examining all the aspects of the matter and is likely to take in-principle decision which will be placed before the court,” the bench said.

On May 28, the apex court had said it would hear on May 31 the petition which has also sought directions to devise an “objective methodology” to declare the result of Class 12 within a specific time frame.  The top court had permitted the petitioner to serve advance copy of the plea on the standing counsel for the respondents — central agency, CBSE, ICSE — and also on the office of the Attorney General.

The petition has arrayed the Centre, the CBSE and the CISCE as respondents in the matter. The CBSE had on April 14 announced cancellation of Class 10 exams and postponement of Class 12 exams in view of the surge in coronavirus cases. The Ministry of Education had recently sought detailed suggestions from the States and Union Territories till May 25 on the proposals discussed in a high-level meeting held on the issue.

The CBSE had proposed conducting the exams between July 15-August 26 and the result to be declared in September. The board had also proposed two options: conducting regular exams for 19 major subjects at notified centres or conducting shorter duration exams at respective schools where students are enrolled.

Meanwhile Congress backed students’ wing NSUI on Monday demanded for age relaxation and extra attempts for students appearing in competitive exams in wake of the unforeseen delays in examination schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to Union Minister Jitendra Singh, NSUI national president Neeraj Kundan also demanded that vaccinating all students scheduled to appear for upcoming competitive examinations be made a priority.

“The candidates going to appear in exams like UPSC, CA, NEET (UG & PG), JEE, SSC-CHSL, UGC NET, INCET should be vaccinated on priority basis as soon as possible,” it said.

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