Class XII exams: SC refuses to order uniform scheme for assessment for all state boards

NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that there cannot be a uniform scheme for assessment of class XII marks for all state boards across India and refused to pass such order saying each board is independent and autonomous.
“We are not going to direct uniform scheme. Each board is different. We cannot direct a uniform scheme across India. Each board will have to evolve their schemes. They are best persons to know and they have experts to advise them correctly,” said a bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.
It further directed all State Boards to notify the scheme for assessment within ten days from today and to declare the internal assessment results by July 31, like the timeline specified by it for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE).
The Bench was hearing a PIL filed by Advocate Anubha Sahai Srivastava seeking cancellation of State Board exams amid COVID situation and uniform assessment criteria for State Boards.
Meanwhile, the top court questioned the Andhra Pradesh government over its decision to conduct physical exams for Class XII “tentatively in the last week of July”, saying the state should have a decision and concrete plan and how can it play with the lives of students.
On the Andhra Pradesh government’s affidavit which stated that COVID safety protocols will be followed by ensuring that only 15-18 students will be there in a hall, the Bench asked has it worked out the formula how it will have around 35,000 rooms for examination purpose?
“Simple Math shows you will need 34,634 rooms (for 15 students) or 28,864 rooms (for 18 students), do you have so many rooms? You will need an equal no of invigilators?” asked the Bench from Andhra Pradesh.
Saying that Andhra Pradesh has already taken a decision to hold the class XII exam, the Apex Court asked the advocate Mahfooz Nazki, the counsel of the Andhra Pradesh government on what basis has it made this declaration in the affidavit that it won’t have more than 15-18 students per room?
“On what basis have you made this declaration in the affidavit that you won’t have more than 15 students per room? You have to show that on the chart and also if you had the information before filing the affidavit,” the bench asked the state.
The Bench told Nazki, “Unless we are convinced that you are prepared to conduct exam without any fatality till then we will not allow it. When others (State Boards) have cancelled the exams you cannot hold it to show you are different only. A commitment which you are making we are not convinced.”
It asked Andhra to show the file recordings of the decision to hold the Class XII examination. “You cannot keep the students hanging. Share the information,” the Bench added.
Posting the matter for hearing tomorrow, the Bench asked Andhra Pradesh to show the concrete plan to hold the class XII examination.
The government in its affidavit before the top court said that experts have been consulted and they are of the view that it will be feasible to hold the examination, hence the State shall endeavour to conduct the examination tentatively in the last week of July 2021.
The affidavit has also said that about 5.20 lakh students will appear for the board examination and there would be precautionary measures in place including holding exams on alternate days and allowing only 15 to 18 students in one exam centre. It has added that apart from social distancing and sanitization protocols, one health official with a medical kit will be available at every exam centre.
Perusing the affidavit, the Bench told Nazki that “you are suggesting you will have the exam in the last week of July, but the situation is very uncertain we don’t know what will happen. If the exam is in July, when will you declare the results? Other admissions won’t wait for your results.”
Nazki replied that State Board will try to have it earlier.
To this, Justice Maheshwar said, “We wanted you to give a concrete decision. You have stated ‘endeavour to tentatively hold exams’ you also know that means nothing. You can’t keep things tentative and uncertain like this.”
“It appears no decision has been specifically taken. You can’t keep thing so uncertain, that’s not expected of the state. You should have a decision and a concrete plan. How can you play with the lives of students.” the Bench added.
The apex court also said that along with students, there will be support staff, invigilators etc.
“If you have 34,000 rooms you will need 34,000 supervisors, where will you get this?” the Bench questioned. “Merely saying we want to take the exam is not enough. You’ve to take responsibility of students, staff, frontline workers,” the top court told Andhra Pradesh’s counsel Nazki.
It further asked Nazki where will the government get these rooms, how will arrangements be done, etc and it hasn’t been stated yet. “You have stated on affidavit without any backup to support them,” added the Bench.
“Give us the details, or we will have to cancel the exams,” it said.
“We are making that clear, keep that in kind and even one fatality you will be made responsible,” the Bench said.
The apex court told the counsel that it’s not only about conducting an exam there will be a collection of sheets, evaluation, etc.
“What’s the contingency plan? What if mid exams you realise the situation has changed. You have to look at it from a 360-degree angle. It’s not that you have to prove you can take exams,” it added.
It suggested Andhra Pradesh government find a solution to the issue and experts work out a formula. “You can take the advice of University Grants Commission (UGC), inputs from CBSE and ICSE. Their experts can advise formula and you could adopt that,” suggested the Bench. (AGENCY)