New Delhi Sept 3(ILNS): The Supreme Court today took exception to the fact that the Kerala Government had not considered the alarming situation of the pandemic in Kerala and had decided to continue with the examination for class 11th students in the offline mode.
The Bench comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Hrishikesh Roy, and Justice C.T. Ravikumar directed that the matter be listed on 13th September and there was a stay on the operation of the exam schedule. It held that there was a prima facie force in the submission that the state government had not seriously considered the situation for class 11th students for whom exams were going to be held from the 6th of September. It recorded that there was no satisfactory response from the State in relation to its appraisal of the situation.
Submissions of the parties and observations of the Court
Mr. Prashant Padmanabhan appeared for the petitioner and informed the Court that this was the second round of litigation. On an earlier occasion, the exams for class 12th had been canceled by CBSE and CISCE. The State Boards had decided to continue with the exams. Subsequent to the PIL filed in the Supreme Court by the child rights activist, Ms. Anubha Srivastava Sahay, which the bench wherein Justice Khanwilkar was a part of had heard, the exams were canceled with the exception of the state of Kerala and Karnataka.
It was submitted that the Supreme Court had taken action in the cases of Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh and Bakri Eid in Kerala and therefore the Court’s intervention is needed in this case also.
Mr. Padmanabhan submitted that the state is pushing more than 3 lakh students when Kerala accounts for more than 70% of the total COVID cases in the country. He said that the government was not at all mindful of the situation.
Mr. C.K. Sasi appearing for the state of Kerala submitted that earlier exams had been conducted in the months of April and July for class 12th students and SSLC where more than 4 lakh students had appeared and that there was no problem. He added that the entrance exams were also held in a physical mode.
Further, it was his submission that the comparison with Kanwar Yatra is uncalled for as there are substantial measures like sanitization of the classrooms and air circulation. Further, the parents associations apart from the health department and volunteers were also actively involved. He submitted that in earlier exams 4 lakh students appeared.
The Court thereafter asked Mr. Sasi what was the infection rate in the state in April? After trying to evade the question, finally Mr. Sasi conceded that he was unaware of the figures.
It was the opinion of the bench that a comparison was necessary. Justice Maheshwari said that “you ought to consider that…today (there is) very alarming situation in Kerala. Has the government analyzed?” Justice Roy asked “whether as a state government, you analyzed in April/May?”
Justice Maheshwari said that everyday there were more than 30,000 cases and the situation was alarming. He remarked that “you never bothered to enquire also.” It was observed by the bench that the model exams that were conducted recently were online. It opined that the government may conduct online exams or otherwise work out some method to evaluate the students. He further added “you admit the students are of a tender age and not vaccinated.”
Justice Roy remarked that Kerala had one of the finest medical infrastructures and despite that the situation was such. Justice CT Ravikumar also mentioned that the students would have to travel from all over the state to reach the exam centers.
Justice Khanwilkar said that the options would have to be generated by the state. He added that “you have to assure us that children will not be exposed. Don’t play with life. They are not fully equipped. They are of a tender age. 11th standard is what age?”
The interim directions to stay the examination schedule by the Supreme Court in a situation where the government is apathetic to the ground realities of the pandemic is the latest in the series of much needed relief to the common people./ILNS/KR/SNG