The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a petition by cabinet ministers of six non-BJP ruled states seeking review of its August 17 order allowing holding of NEET-UG and JEE (Mains) examinations. The Bench, also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, found no merit in the plea to review an apex court order on August 17 refusing to entertain a petition by students to postpone the NEET and the JEE. “We have carefully gone through the review petitions and the connected papers. We find no merit in the review petitions and the same are accordingly dismissed”, the court said in a short order. The apex court, in its earlier judgement, had upheld the Centre’s decision to hold the exams and said, “A crucial year of students cannot be wasted and life has to go on” while dismissing the students’ pleas for postponement.
The Joint Entrance Examination, which was earlier deferred twice in view of Covid-19 pandemic, is now underway — from September 1 to 6. The JEE-Main is the first large-scale exam to be conducted in the country amid the pandemic.
The ministers in their plea had claimed that the top court order failed to secure students’ “right to life” and ignored “teething logistical difficulties” to be faced in conducting the exams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry had decided to request the court to reconsider its decision in the interest of students. The States which had documented a survey appeal are West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Rajasthan. The states requested that the assessments be deferred by in any event six to about two months remembering the flood in COVID cases and wellbeing worries of understudies. They claimed that the administration’s choice to proceed with assessments notwithstanding the 3.3 million COVID-19 cases with more than 60,000 passings, “uncovers non-utilization of the psyche, and is an absurd, subjective and eccentric exercise of intensity”
The Ministers had submitted that lakhs of students should not fall prey to the Centre’s “knee-jerk” and “haphazard” plans, which will prove “worse than the disease itself”. The National Testing Agency (NTA) had notified the JEE between September 1 to 9. The NEET for medical seats are scheduled for September 13. The JEE Mains is slated to be conducted over 660 exam centres, with 9.53 lakh students taking it. The NEET will see 15.97 lakh students in 3,843 centres across the country. Ministers Moloy Ghatak of West Bengal, Dr. Rameshwar Oraon from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh’s Amarjeet Bhagat, Maharashtra’s Uday Ravindra Samant and Raghu Sharma and Balbir Singh Sidhu from Rajasthan and Punjab respectively had moved the Supreme Court through lawyer Sunil Fernandes. The petition was filed shortly after a meeting was held among Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Chief Ministers of the six non-BJP-ruled States. The Ministers said the months from April to September 2020 were characterised by inaction, confusion, lethargy and inertia on the government’s part. The Union government had suddenly woken up to hurriedly fix the exam dates. “The remedy will prove to be worse than the disease itself”, the petition had said, adding that the situation was grave enough to recall or postpone the exams. Over 9 lakh candidates have registered for the exam for admission to engineering courses in IITs, NITs and Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs). The National Testing Agency has taken several steps to conduct the crucial exam safely: increasing the number of examination centres, alternate seating plans, fewer candidates per room and staggered entry and exit, among others.
The debate surrounding the NEET and JEE 2020 exams took a political turn when many political leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin and Rahul Gandhi decided to raise their voices against the conduction of these exams in the middle of a global pandemic. Agreeing with Gandhi that examinations in the time of Covid-19 was inappropriate, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had rallied other CMs to approach the apex court with a petition seeking review of the SC’s August 17 order dismissing PILs seeking cancellation/postponement of the two exams, which hold the key to admissions to engineering and and medical courses in various colleges.