New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a review petition by six opposition-ruled states against its August 17 order allowing the conduct of NEET (UG) and JEE (Main) entrance examinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the JEE and NEET will go ahead on the dates scheduled.
The apex court bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari rejected the review petition filed by ministers from Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Last week, these ministers had moved the apex court saying that if the order was not reviewed, “grave and irreparable harm and injury would befall on the student community”.
The JEE (Main) was initially supposed to be held on April 7-11. Due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, it was first postponed to July 18-23, and later rescheduled for September 1-6. The JEE (Advanced) is to be held on September 27. The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), for admission to undergraduate medical programmes, was to be held on May 3. It was first postponed to July 26, and then rescheduled to September 13.
What the petitioners demanded
On August 17, the apex court had rejected a plea for further postponement of exams, observing that “life cannot be stopped” and the “career of students cannot be put in jeopardy”.
The petitioners in the case were Moloy Ghatak (minister from West Bengal), Rameshwar Oraon (Jharkhand), Raghu Sharma (Rajasthan), Amarjeet Bhagat (Chhattisgarh), Balbir Singh Sidhu (Punjab), and Uday Ravindra Samant (Maharashtra). The petitioners had, in its review plea, stated, “not only will health, welfare and safety of students/candidates appearing for the NEET/JEE examinations stand imperilled but also the public health at large would be in severe jeopardy…”
While there are 660 examination centres for JEE — roughly 1,443 students per centre — there are 3,843 centres for NEET, or approximately 415 students per centre, the petitioners had pointed out. “Such large movement of people will ipso facto prove to be a serious health hazard and will totally defeat the twin present-day solutions we have of combating the Covid-19 – i.e. social distancing and avoidance of large public gatherings,” they had said while urging the court to postpone the entrance examinations.
In a situation, the review plea had said, “where there is absolutely no classroom teaching, the decision of the Union government to conduct examinations on such a massive scale reveals non-application of mind and is unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious exercise of power.”
The six ministers had stated that the Centre had “adequate time to make comprehensive preparations” for safe and successful conduct of the examinations. “However,” they had argued, “the intervening months from April to September were characterised by inaction, confusion, lethargy and inertia…now the Union government has suddenly woken up to realise that their inertia is going to cost lakhs of students their academic year and therefore as a knee-jerk reaction…has haphazardly and hurriedly fixed the dates of the examinations”.
A report in Hindustan Times said that 44% of JEE candidates stayed away from the examination on the first day in Lucknow district. Of the total 1,065 candidates scheduled to appear in Lucknow, 597 candidates took the test and remaining 469 were absent, the report said, quoting officials.
Uttar Pradesh has the second highest number of candidates who will be appearing for JEE exam. The JEE exam is being conducted at 66 centers in the state since Tuesday. A total of 100,706 students are expected to appear in the JEE exam in UP this year.
Meanwhile, a report in Telegraph showed that as many as 70% of the students did not turn up on the first day of the JEE (Main) in the two centres in Calcutta – TCS Gitobitan in Salt Lake and the Institute of Instrumentation & Metrology in Belghoria.
Of the 2,623 students who were to appear for the exam on Tuesday at the two centres, only 771 turned up, said the report quoting officials associated with the exams.