The University Grants Commission (UGC) told the Supreme Court on Monday that degrees would not be recognised if no examinations are held for final-year students even as the country faces a coronavirus crisis.
The UGC response was conveyed by its counsel, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on a batch of pleas that challenged the UGC schedule for final-year university exams before September 30.
Mehta contended before a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan that it's not in the interest of students to not hold exams. He asked the top court for time to file a reply to Delhi and Maharashtra governments' affidavits, wherein they said that they had decided to cancel the exams in the state universities.
The petitioners' counsel contended that the UGC guidelines for holding exams are "not legally or constitutionally valid".
Mehta argued that the decision by Delhi and Maharashtra to cancel exams in their respective state universities is against the UGC rules.
He argued that UGC is the only body that can prescribe rules for conferring a degree, and state governments cannot change the rules.
The counsel for one of the petitioners replied that there is complete inconsistency in the Ministry of Human Resource Development and UGC guidelines.
The bench also comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah adjourned the hearing till Friday, after the UGC asked for time to respond to the affidavits filed by Delhi and Maharashtra.
The Delhi government stated in its affidavit that on July 11, a decision was taken that all online-offline exams of universities under the state, which include final year exams, would be cancelled in the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak.
However, the affidavit cited some vice-chancellors of certain universities in favour of wrapping up at least the final semester exams, but the Delhi government decided to stick to its decision of not holding the exams.
The apex court granted time to the UGC to respond to the stand taken by the Maharashtra and Delhi governments to cancel university exams. The bench also asked the UGC to address the question of whether the Disaster Management Act would override its notification on guidelines for exams.
Mehta questioned the stand taken by Maharashtra and Delhi. He said, "When UGC is the only body to confer degrees, how can states cancel exams and expect UGC to confer degrees?"
Mehta insisted that students need to continue to study, as they will not be granted degrees if exams are not conducted. "That's the law," he added.
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