Board exams: Centre asks SC to give time till Thursday to take ‘final decision’

The Bench said the government had to give ‘good reasons’ if it decided this year to depart from its policy in 2020 to cancel the exams because of COVID-19 and assess students on the basis of their earlier marks.

The government on Monday sought more time in the Supreme Court to take a “final decision” on whether the Class 12 Board exams should be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, for the Centre, asked the court to give the government time till Thursday to take a final call on the issue.

Agreeing, a Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, however, said the government had to give “good reasons” in case it decided this year to depart from its policy in 2020 to cancel the conduct of the exams because of the pandemic and assess students on the basis of their earlier marks.

“The government will take a final decision within the next few days… give us time till Thursday,” Mr. Venugopal submitted.

“You take a decision… But in case you depart from your policy last year, you must give us a good reason why you are departing,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Mr. Venugopal.

The top law officer tried to indicate that last year the pandemic had struck when the Board exams were already under way.

“Some students had one paper left, some had four papers to do…” Mr. Venugopal submitted.

“There is a sanguine hope expressed by the petitioners here that the policy adopted last year — to cancel the exams in the face of the pandemic — would be adopted this year too. So, if you are departing from your notification last year, you should give us good reasons,” Justice Khanwilkar underscored.

Last year, the Supreme Court had accepted a Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) scheme to assess the marks of the cancelled papers of Class 10 and 12 by taking an average of best performances in the papers already taken.

The court, on Monday, is hearing a petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma to direct the authorities to forgo the exam and conceive an objective methodology to declare the Class 12 results within a specific time-frame.

“Issue a writ of mandamus directing the respondents to cancel the examination of Class 12 and devise an objective methodology to declare the result within a specific time-frame,” Ms. Sharma has urged.

Ms. Sharma said the CBSE and the ICSE notifications deferring the exams to an unspecified date should be quashed. It said students could not be made to suffer uncertainty in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petition said there should not be any uncertainty regarding exams crucial to the future academic study of Class 12 students.

Ms. Sharma said the Boards had already cancelled the Class 10 exams. The same should be done for Class 12 students.

“As far as the innocent students of Class12 are concerned, a step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman direction has been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration instead of following the directions propounded and accepted by them last year,” the petition has said.

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