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Six States seek review of SC order on NEET, JEE

Our Bureau/Agencies New Delhi | Updated on August 28, 2020

Outside Shastri Bhavan in the capital, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee members stage a protest on Friday against holding of the JEE and NEET examinations in September   -  PTI

Accuse Centre of knee-jerk reaction after ‘sleeping’ on the issue for months

Six State governments, led by the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Shiv Sena and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, have approached the Supreme Court with a review petition challenging the court’s order to hold NEET and JEE exams physically. The States said the order failed to secure students’ right to life and ignored “logistical difficulties” in conducting the exams during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The petition sought the postponement of the exams “in a manner that achieves the twin objectives of ensuring that the academic year of the students is not wasted and their health and safety is not compromised.”

After filing the petition, advocate for the States and senior Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the petition that has been filed is in four parts such as safety and health, rational, balanced ways in which government can provide both objectives of health and education, and policy rules based on which a government will be able to do it.

The review plea has been filed by ministers from West Bengal (Moloy Ghatak), Jharkhand (Rameshwar Oraon), Rajasthan (Raghu Sharma), Chhattisgarh (Amarjeet Bhagat), Punjab (BS Sidhu) and Maharashtra (Uday Ravindra Sawant). The plea, filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, said the apex court order fails to satisfy the safety and security concerns of students.

States’ fear

Addressing a press conference along with Singhvi, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien blamed what they called the insensitivity of the Centre for the delay in taking decisions. They said the Centre sat on the matter for five months and that States fear a spread of virus if lakhs of students come to examination centres. “The Centre has shown an irresponsible attitude on this. They have started acting normal, but the cases of Covid-19 are increasing. There are a number of Covid cases in four of the State’s districts where examinations will have to be conducted,” Soren said.

Singhvi hoped that the Supreme Court will take cognisance of the plight of the students and postpone the examinations. “Such large movements are a recipe for disaster when health, life and security are concerned. We’ve tried to give a responsible roadmap. Even if you postpone exams to October-November, get results in 6-8 weeks, you can comfortably start the academic session in January and complete the academic year,” he said.

“This government has actually drawn itself into a corner and is now trying to get out of it by knee-jerk, ego-centred reactions. These exams were scheduled in April, you kept postponing, you slept and did not create alternatives, now you’re stuck,” he said.

The top court had refused to interfere with the conduct of the medical and engineering entrance exams, saying that life must go on and students can’t lose a precious year due to the pandemic.

The National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts both the exams, has decided to hold NEET on September 13 and JEE Main exams for entrance to under-graduate engineering colleges and institutes from September 1-6.

Terming the decision to conduct the exams as irrational, the plea said that the top court failed to appreciate that the Centre had adequate time to establish at least one centre for every district for NEET (UG) and JEE (Mains) rather than having several centres in one district.

Not a consent

The petition said that the mere fact that lakhs of students have registered for the exams is not indicative of their consent or their willingness or their desire to attend physical exams.

It said the August 17 order is cryptic, and does not discuss various aspects and complexities involved in a matter of such a magnitude.

The plea said that only two reasons given by the court — life must go on and students should not lose an academic year — do not constitute an authoritative and comprehensive judicial scrutiny of the issue.

Published on August 28, 2020

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