No Physical Classes Held, Kerala HC Validates State’s Decision of Not Awarding Grace Marks for Extracurricular Activities in the Academic Year 2020-21
Kerala High Court while hearing a batch of 9 petitions in Yadunandan M (Minor) Vs. State Of Kerala — W.P.(C) No.13763 of 2021 & con. cases, upheld the communication of Additional Secretary, General Education Department to the Director of Public Education Department whereby it was decided that grace marks will not be awarded in SSLC and Plus Two (Class X & Class XII) for the academic year 2020-21. The court stated that no illegality can be attributed to the state as it is the duty of the state to assess the situation prevailing and formulate accordingly, and as there were no physical classes and extracurricular activities conducted due to Covid-19 Pandemic, State was right in not awarding the grace marks.
The two-judge bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly held:
It is for the Government to decide the manner in which the interests of such students are to be protected and once their admissions to higher classes are taken care of by awarding bonus marks no manner of illegality or arbitrariness can be imputed against the State especially due to the fact that it is for the State to take stock of the situation prevailing and act accordingly so as to avoid any arbitrariness among the student community. This we say also bearing in mind the fact that the State could achieve very high percentage of pass and high marks when compared to the previous academic year and therefore, if any further marks are awarded to a smaller group of student community, it may seriously prejudice the other larger student community, competing for higher studies on the basis of marks alone. It is also worthwhile to note that the grace marks were withdrawn only for the academic year 2020-2021.
These petitions were filed seeking directions to quash the communication dated 29.06.2021 between Additional Secretary to State Government, General Education Department, and Director, Public Education Department, Thiruvananthapuram. The impugned communication conveyed the decision of the State Government that grace marks will not be awarded in the academic year 2020-21 for SSLC and Plus Two to the students who participated in extracurricular activities including Scouts and Guides, Student Police Cadet, Junior Red Cross, National Cadet Corps, and National Service Scheme.
The petitioners contended that their legitimate expectations were denied as awarding of grace marks was withdrawn after the examinations were over. It was argued that such extracurricular activities were an integral part of the education and therefore grace marks must be awarded for the same.
The respondent submitted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no physical classes conducted in the academic year 2020-21. The grace marks in extracurricular activities are awarded for compensating the loss of educational working hours. As there was no physical education, there was no loss of teaching hours and hence grace marks need not be awarded. It was further argued that due to the pandemic the exam pattern was significantly altered and made easier for students by providing focus areas and more questions to choose from. This resulted in a passing percentage of 99.47 with 1,21,318 students securing A-plus grades. Last year these figures were 98.82 and 41,906 respectively. In light of the above facts, the grace marks would be unnecessary and also grace marks cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
The court observed that certain facts are not disputed by the petitioners like no physical classes were conducted and students could not participate in such extracurricular activities which might cause a loss in teaching hours. Therefore, in absence of such activities, the grounds of granting grace marks do not exist as they are in nature of concession extended under certain conditions.
At the same time, the State had clarified that the Bonus Points shall be awarded to students while availing admission in Higher Secondary Schools. They would be awarded to students holding certificates of NCC with 75% attendance, Student Police Cadet, Scouts & Guides (recipient of Rastrapathi Puraskar/Rajya Puraskar, etc. only). This ensures that the interest of students were safeguarded.
The court held:
Above all these aspects, the State Government have decided to provide bonus marks to the specific class of students while they are seeking admission to higher classes in the pattern and formula discussed, and in that view of the matter also, it can never be said that any manner of prejudice is caused to such students, who were entitled to secure the benefits of the Government Orders
Concluding, the court, therefore, dismissed the petitions holding that petitioners are not entitled to any relief.
Vaibhav Karadale | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL