While hearing plea challenging Delhi University Open Book Examinations (OBE) the Delhi High Court on Monday said that administrative authorities who are in charge of conducting examinations in universities, including the UGC and the Centre, ought to also bear in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in enormous mental distress and agony to students. The remark came from the single-judge bench of Justice Prathibha M Singh while expressing its unhappiness with Delhi University (DU) observing that mock tests are not being conducted in time and students are facing technical glitches during mock tests.
The court said that there are families which are suffering medical illnesses and giving of examinations is not just a technical issue but the state of mental preparedness of the students also needs to be assessed. It observed that the exam schedule has been completely upset due to the postponement of the exams till July 10, 2020. It noted that the date sheet for some of the courses has been uploaded but for some courses, the date sheet also has not yet been announced, though it is submitted even today that the examinations will commence on July 10th, 2020.
The court also observed that the directions given by the HC earlier have not been observed in letter and spirit. It also slammed DU for not meeting its assurance given to the Delhi HC earlier. The court also took into account that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused a considerable disturbance in the schedules for studies and examinations across educational institutions and thereafter various methods of imparting education have been adopted.
The court has directed DU to place on record the data related to the number of students who are studying in the final year of DU and the number of students who are registered for the final year examinations to be conducted through the online process. DU has also apprised the court about a state-wise break-up of the students and from where they have to take the examinations.
The court has also asked DU to inform about its preparedness of the website portal for the handling the traffic during examinations, keeping in mind the recent technical glitches faced by students during the mock exams. The court was hearing a petition filed by several students including one Anupam through advocates Akash Sinha, Shubham Saket, Indrajeet Singh and Gaurav Prakash Shah.
The petitioners have sought quashing and withdrawal of the notifications dated 14th May 2020, 30th May 2020 and 27th June 2020 in respect of undergraduate and postgraduate students, including students of the School of Open Learning and Non-Collegiate Women Education Board. The petition also sought to direct DU to evaluate the final year students based on the previous years’ or semesters’ results like the respondent university has planned to promote the first and second-year students.
In another hearing before a division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and S Prasad, Delhi University told the High Court that those under-graduate students, who could not appear in open book Examinations, will be provisionally granted admission in the post-graduate courses offered by DU subject to the condition that they meet the eligibility norms after the results of the under-graduate course are declared and subject to their appearing for the entrance examination.
Senior advocate Sachin Dutta’s, appearing for DU, submission came when a division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and S Prasad asked the stand of the university on this issue. The court asked about the status of those students who are studying in the final year of the undergraduate course and propose to seek admission in the post-graduate courses in the event they are not in the position to take the exams through the OBE system and instead elect to await the physical exams proposed to be conducted in September.
DU told the court that students who are unable to appear in OBE will be afforded an opportunity to sit in the examinations physically, in September subject to conditions normalising. DU, currently conducting the mock examinations from July 4 to July 8 and thereafter, the OBE shall commence from July 10. The counsel appearing for DU stated that if students are not in a position to sit for the OBE exam commencing on July 10, all the students, whether in the PWD category or otherwise will be afforded an opportunity to sit in the examinations physically.
This is irrespective of the fact that they have filled up their applications online or otherwise, for sitting in the examinations and even reached the stage of downloading the question papers for participating in the OBE but could not upload their answer-sheets for any reason, he further added. The court directed DU to file an affidavit clarifying its stand so that it can pass appropriate orders on the next date. The court also said that affidavit filed by the university will clarify and to avoid any ambiguity.
The court has listed the matter for July 9 for further hearing. The court had earlier issued a show-cause notice to Delhi University asking it to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against it and its officers for withholding material information and misleading the court. The online OBE was scheduled to start from July 1 but later had been deferred for July 10.