A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday extended till October 31 its interim order directing the University Grants Commission (UGC) not to destroy the answer sheets of candidates who wrote the National Eligibility Test.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice A.M. Shaffique extended the order when a batch of 2,000-odd writ petitions challenging the increase in the minimum marks to qualify, after the conduct of the test, came up for hearing. The petitioners said that the UGC had no authority to change any aggregate minimum for a pass in the test. The petitioners pointed out that the general category candidate had to secure 35 per cent for the first two papers of the exam while he/she has to get 50 per cent for the third paper. However, later the percentage of third paper had been increased to 60.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the University Grants Commission defended its decision to increase the minimum marks required for passing the test.

The qualifying criteria for lectureship eligibility in the test had been posted on its web site on declaring the examination results. It had been clearly stated in the original notification that candidates should obtain minimum required marks in each paper separately. It had also been said that the qualifying criteria for Junior Research Fellowship and eligibility for lectureship would be decided by UGC before declaration of results.

It was the moderation committee appointed by the UGC, consisting of senior academicians, which had recommended that the general, OBC (non-creamy layer) and SC/ST candidates would be required to obtain an aggregate percentage of 65, 60 and 55 respectively in addition to the paper-wise minimum percentage as qualifying criteria.

The notification said that the final cut-off would be decided by the Commission before declaration of the results. As such, there would be differences in the qualifying marks.

The statement also added that the National Eligibility Test could not be equated with college examinations. It was a national-level examination being conducted for determining and maintaining the standard of teaching.

The qualifying criterion was prescribed with a view to maintain educational standard for lectureship. There was no arbitrariness or discrimination.