Top Story NEET-JEE exams: SC dismisses review petition for deferment by...

NEET-JEE exams: SC dismisses review petition for deferment by cabinet ministers of 6 states

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court today dismissed the review petition filed by cabinet ministers of six opposition-ruled states challenging its decision to dismiss pleas seeking the postponement of NEET-JEE exams in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. A bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Krishna Murari heard the plea today in a chamber hearing.

The review petition against the court’s August 17 order was then filed on August 28 by West Bengal Labour and Law Minister Moloy Ghatak, Jharkhand Finance Minister Dr Rameshwar Oraon, Rajasthan Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Raghu Sharma, Chhattisgarh’s Food Minister Amarjeet Bhagat, Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, and Maharashtra Education Minister Uday R. Samant.

The Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE) Main for admission to engineering institutes was finally conducted on September 1 with precautions amid COVID-19, and NEET 2020, for admission to country’s medical colleges is scheduled to be held on September 13. Both the entrance exams had been postponed twice in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

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The review petitioners in the present case contended that the decision to hold exams doesn’t secure the safety, security and right to life of the candidates and failed to balance the aspects of conducting the examination and securing the safety of the students. According to them 25 lakh students will appear for the two exams, at a time when India has recorded over 3.31 million COVID-19 cases. While JEE is to be conducted in over 660 exam centres, with roughly 1,443 students writing the exam per centre, around 415 students per NEET exam centre will appear in total 3,843 centres.

The petitioners went on to submit that even though Centre had enough time between months from April to September 2020, it failed to ensure the safe and successful conduct of the examinations due to its inaction, confusion, lethargy and inertia. The Union Government has suddenly woken up to realize that their inertia is going to cost lakhs of students their academic year and therefore haphazardly and hurriedly fixed the dates of the examinations. This remedy will prove to be worse than the disease itself.

The review petition states that the process of reaching the examination centre itself can be a major source of being infected and it would be practically impossible to properly implement social distancing norms within exam centres due to the low number of centres.

The six opposition leaders in their plea also responded to the Supreme Court’s observation that “ultimately life has to go on”, by saying that while this advice may have very sound philosophical underpinnings it cannot be a substitute for valid legal reasoning and logical analysis of the various aspects involved in the conduct of the NEET UG and JEE exams. The reasoning of students losing a year would be tantamount to putting the cart before the horse, as health, safety and security of students and their families should be balanced with not losing the current academic year.

The August 17 order challenged in the review petition was issued by Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, while hearing a plea filed by 11 students from 11 states, submitting that the decision to hold these exams during COVID-19 was utterly arbitrary, whimsical and violative of the fundamental right to life of lakhs of affected students.

According to the petitioners, lakhs of young students will appear in these exams and in a situation where COVID-19 cases are increasing in India at an alarming rate conducting these exams across India, will put lives of lakhs of young students at utmost risk and danger of disease and death.

The bench disagreed with this stand and said if exams are postponed the career of students will be in peril and if they aren’t held, students will lose an academic year.

After being assured that proper precautions will be taken during the conduct of the exams, the court said that “life cannot be stopped, and we have to move forward with all precautions.” It decided to not interfere with policy decisions of the authorities.

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In compliance with Supreme Court’s order, the Union government through Amit Khare, Secretary of High Education Ministry, had also clarified on August 25 that NEET and JEE will happen as scheduled in September as the year cannot be wasted. He had also informed that the National Testing Agency (NTA) has issued standard operating procedure with guidelines for conducting the exams, including full sanitisation of exam centres, usage of masks all the time, hand sanitisers and gloves, etc. 

Read the order here;

18253-2020-7-1001-23831-Order-04-Sep-2020

– India Legal Bureau

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