Kerala HC Rejects University’s Defence of Non-Availability of Software for Conducting Exam, Directs to Conduct Online Examinations
The High Court of Kerala in Sagar A.R. and others v. APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University observing that conducting of offline examination would entail huge risk of transmission of virus, held that the university is mandatorily required to apply the guidelines of UGC for the current academic session 2020-21 and shall also be applicable for the terminal or final year examination through offline mode and the other semesters will be evaluated through the internal assessment.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Amit Rawal held:
Conducting of offline/physical examination would entail a huge risk of transmission of the virus. No explanation has come forth as to why the University has not taken steps from the date when the UGC had come out with the first guidelines in September 2020. Despite that they could conduct online examination for 8th semester. Thus, the plea of non-availability of software is hereby rejected… The conduct of examination for the odd semesters S1 and S3; whatever had been declared by the University is ultra vires and quashed.
A writ was filed by the petitioner students seeking issuance of directions for the respondent-university for conducting Semester I and III examinations for the Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) Course for the year 2021 through online mode in compliance of the guideline published by the UGC in July 2021.
The respondent university notified the conduct of the Semester III examinations from 9.7.2021 for S1 and 13.7.2021 for S3 (2019 scheme) in physical mode.
The petitioners submitted that the UGC guideline have statutory force and that the University in utter disregarded to their fundamental right, i.e., Right to health had scheduled offline examinations. Additionally, they stated that offline mode requires the students to be present in the campus for which they have to travel by public transport in which their health may be affected with a strong possibility of contracting the virus. Besides, it added that no measures were neither intimated nor had been initiated by the University authorities for the prevention of gathering before and after completion of the examination.
The respondent submitted that there were only three more pending examinations of the petitioners and that they do not have any software so far developed for conducting an online exam. The University had no provision for granting grades to the first-year petitioners and in the probability that the university considers the +2 grades it would not be correct as the course relates to technicality.
The Court heard both sides and concluded that UGC has already placed its rules for conducting examinations of the final year as well as the other semesters. Therefore, the court held that the proper mode is to be adopted in the petitioners’ case, i.e., the online mode of examination.
University is directed to come out with a schedule of examination strictly as per the UGC guidelines keeping in view the COVID pandemic protocol and guidelines in force.
Further, the court also rejected the plea of not having proper means to conduct online examination and directed the university to publish on the internet notifying students about the cancellation of the subsequent exams including which was to be held the next day of the hearing.
The court added:
University is directed to come out with a schedule of examination strictly as per the UGC guidelines keeping in view the COVID pandemic protocol and guidelines in force. University is directed to publish flash message on internet so as to intimate the students that the examination for tomorrow and subsequent also are cancelled. All previous examinations (Semester I and III) are also cancelled.
The case was dismissed accordingly.
Rasmita Behera | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL