New Delhi, June 23: The Union government and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that the “decision-making process” on whether the remaining Class X and XII exams from July 1 to 15 should be held amid the pandemic was at an “advanced stage”.
“Solicitor General has informed us that the expert body is in the process of taking a final decision in the matter very shortly and hopefully by tomorrow June, 24. In the circumstances, we defer the hearing of these matter(s) to June 25, 2020 at 2.00 p.m”, a three-judge Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said in a short order, The Hindu reported.
The court said it would consider on Thursday separate petitions filed by parents of students of both the CBSE and the ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education), an examination conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre and the CBSE, said that “we understand the anxiety of the students” and a decision may be finalised by “tomorrow [June 24] evening”.
Advocate Rishi Malhotra, for the petitioners who are worried parents, said the students were worried about the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. A group of parents has sought the quashing of a notification to conduct the remaining Class X and XII exams in July. They have asked for students to be awarded marks based on an internal assessment or in line with the marks allotted for practical exams.
A similar request has been made by the Maharashtra, Delhi and Odisha governments to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development.
The parents said in the plea that students could be exposed to COVID-19 infection if they appeared for exams amid an increase in the number of coronavirus cases
“The government is deciding… Let the government take a decision. These are unprecedented,” Justice Khanwilkar, flanked by Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, addressed Mr. Malhotra orally.
The Bench also took up a separate petition filed seeking clarity on the part of the ICSE authorities regarding the pending examinations. The Bombay High Court had raised concerns over the conduct of the exams in the midst of rising COVID-19 cases and deaths. It asked the ICSE authorities to make their stand clear on the exams.
The court asked the ICSE, represented by senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, to “take the informed decision of the government [about conduct of exams] seriously and abide by it”.
The government initially told the court that it could not decide for the ICSE.
“We cannot decide for the ICSE. They have to say ‘we will follow the decision of the government’. We cannot bind the ICSE to our decision, they have to bind themselves,” Mr. Mehta said.
But the court told Mr. Gupta that the ICSE should go by what the government decided. “In the interest of students, ICSE should go by what the government decides about the conduct of the exams. The decision of the government will be taken after consultations with experts. It will be an informed decision. You [ICSE] abide by it,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Mr. Gupta.
Mr. Gupta, at one point, asked the court to defer the case pending in the Bombay High Court. He urged the court to list it with the CBSE matter coming up on June 25.