The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a petition by students to postpone the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) citing COVID-19 after recording the exam authorities assurance that all necessary precautions would be taken to keep safe the candidates who run into lakhs.
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“Education should be opened up. COVID may continue for a year more. Are you going to wait for another year. Do you know what is the loss to the country and the career peril to the students,” Justice Arun Mishra, who headed the three-judge Bench, asked the petitioners.
The court refused the petitioners’ plea to withdraw their petitions.
Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, for one of the petitioners, submitted that the “honourable Prime Minister has said a vaccine is on the way. Let us wait for that...”
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Justice B.R. Gavai intervened to point out that the question of when a vaccine would come was left to experts and the court had no intention to get into that domain.
“Are you not demanding that the court should be opened up amid COVID? Do you see this glass partition fixed here [the judges have been separated in the courtroom with a glass partition]... When we are getting ready to open up, you say exams should not be held,” Justice Mishra asked.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the National Testing Agency, assured that they wanted the exam to go on.
“The exams must go on. We have taken all the precautions,” Mr. Mehta submitted. The court recorded the submission.
The petition was filed by 11 students from 11 States seeking postponement of the NEET and the JEE scheduled in September.
Students had argued that the decision to hold the JEE through online mode and the NEET through offline mode in centres across India was “utterly arbitrary, whimsical and violative of the fundamental right to life of lakhs of affected students”.
“Due to strong possibility of getting affected by COVID-19, many students may be deprived from appearing in aforesaid JEE-NEET Exams, which will be in flagrant violation of their fundamental right within Article 14 of Constitution,” the petition said.
It pointed out that the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India had cancelled the Chartered Accountancy examinations, and the remaining exams of the CBSE/ICSE/ISC had also been cancelled.