We are looking at the fate of lakhs of students…This is the kind of uninformed political decision that results in chaos,” Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee orally observed.

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Allowing students to pass without proper assessment unacceptable: Madras High Court on TN GO cancelling arrear exams amid COVID-19
“We are looking at the fate of lakhs of students…This is the kind of uninformed political decision that results in chaos,” Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee orally observed.
Allowing students to pass without proper assessment unacceptable: Madras High Court on TN GO cancelling arrear exams amid COVID-19
Madras High Court
Meera Emmanuel
Published on :
07 Apr, 2021 , 6:15 pm
The Madras High Court on Wednesday expressed strong reservations over the Tamil Nadu government’s August 2020 decision to cancel arrear exams for college students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, terming the move an uninformed political decision that has resulted in chaos (B Ramkumar Adityan v Principal Secretary and ors, Prof Dr E Balaguruswamy v. The Principal Secretary and ors).

The Court opined that the decision to allow students to pass exams with proper assessment is unacceptable and directed the State to consult the University Grants Commission (UGC) on measures that may have to be implemented to correct the decision to cancel the arrear exams.

The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy also directed the State to furnish details on the number of students who applied for re-writing their exams (arrears) and the number of such students who have passed or failed.

“You have to show us how many have failed, how many has passed, from every stream. You should also have a back up by now … You will have to give us details pertaining to all universities, universities-wise, subject-wise and the process of evaluation adopted,” Chief Justice Banerjee told the State.

All particulars regarding the same have to produced on a “university to university” basis, the Court emphasised.

“The fullest particulars should be (produced) by the State on a university to university basis and, if possible, on a college to college basis indicating the number of students who had applied for each course to rewrite the exams and the number of students who were found to have qualified upon any process of evaluation which (may have been) undertaken”, the order said.
The Court added that it does not propose to direct that these students have failed en masse. However, the Court may order that these students would be deemed to have passed their exams only if they undergo and clear some evaluation process charted out in accordance with UGC guidelines already in place, the Chief Justice hinted.

“We are looking at the fate of lakhs of students… good or bad, this measure has been done. (What are measures that can be taken to correct it) so it stops being the farce it has become? You (UGC) have experts on the field. Please request them to think on how without compromising on the sanctity of system, so that the future of these students do not get adversely affected…This is the kind of uninformed political decision that results in chaos,” he said.

On the decision to cancel the arrear exams and allow students to pass without sufficient evaluation, Chief Justice Banerjee commented,

“It sends a completely wrong signal. The signal appears to be that as long as they have paid the fee and we earned the revenue, they are allowed to pass…. This will not do. You’ve (State) gone over the UGC to do something you could not have done. We don’t view it to be in accordance with UGC guidelines. It will have to be undone… these people who have gone out thinking they have passed.”

In the order passed subsequently, the Court said:

“Though the relevant notification (August 26, 2020) referred to evaluation being carried out on the basis of the guidelines issued by the UGC or AICTE it appears that AICTE did not agree to the proposal and the UGC guidelines may not have been followed at all. It is inconceivable that a whole masse of students will be certified to have qualified in a system without having basic knowledge in respect of key aspects thereof. What appears to have been done by the State may be to treat all those who wanted to rewrite their exams as deemed to have passed without conducting any form of test or evaluation. The UGC guidelines did not provide for such a scenario nor is it acceptable to the court.”
Advocate General Vijay Narayan, appearing for the State, submitted that the decision to cancel the arrear exams was taken in line with the UGC’s guidelines issued at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. He also made submissions on the assessment carried out for students whose arrear exams were cancelled, based on marks from previous semesters.

The GO passed in August, however, was not applicable to six categories of students including those in law, agriculture, teacher education, medical and engineering colleges, he said. It was also informed that the Anna University’s Vice-Chancellor had refused to implement the GO, citing the AICTE’s directions.

Appearing for a petitioner-student, advocate S Shanmuga Raja raised a grievance that Universities outside Tamil Nadu are not allowing students admission to higher studies even after the final exams, since certificates are yet to be issued.

The State, in turn, informed that while final exams were held by various colleges and students have passed the same and also joined other courses, colleges have not issued certificates on account of an interim order passed by the Court in November staying the GO in question.

The UGC’s counsel contended that it had never allowed the State to allow college students to automatically pass exams and that it had only issued guidelines to assess students in certain ways, keeping in view the local pandemic conditions.

The Chief Justice opined that the decision to allow students to pass sans proper assessment as absolutely unacceptable.

“We are concerned about this. This is the career of a whole lot of students. We have to give it every kind of serious thought that it deserves,” he added.

The Court, therefore, directed the State to consult with the UGC to discern what is the least disruptive, alternative evaluation measure that can be carried out for the students whose arrear exams were cancelled, opining that a complete lack of evaluation will fall afoul of several principles.

This is not an area where the State and the UGC can afford to be on different pages, Chief Justice Banerjee orally remarked.

“You (State) have to consult the UGC and tell us what is the solution. We are not experts… What we see is that a lot of people going through beyond a barrier without there being a sieving process that should be there…There has to be plan B. You may succeed in dislodging our order. But in the interest of students there must be plan B,” he went on to add.

In this regard, the order passed today stated the following:

“The State and UGC should put their heads together to suggest any ameliorative measures that may be taken by way of an exam or some other method. There is no doubt that lakhs of students who had thought that they had cleared the particular course after writing they final semester examination may have to be held back because they did not clear previous papers; at the same time unqualified persons cannot be certified to have qualified to pursue professional courses or even higher studies.”
Madras High CourtTamil naduUGCUniversity Grants CommissionArrearsJustice Senthilkumar RamamoorthyExams during COVID-19Chief Justice Sanjib BanerjeeArrear Exams

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