A day after Justice Arun Mishra’s retirement, the Supreme Court scheduled for Friday hearing on a petition filed by cabinet ministers of six non-BJP ruled states seeking review of the SC’s earlier order allowing NEET-UG and JEE (Main) to be conducted.
Here are all you need to know about the SC hearing:
*A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari will look into the review petition in chambers and decide whether it requires open court hearing through video-conferencing.
*Cabinet ministers from Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand had moved the SC on Friday seeking deferment of NEET-UG and JEE (Main) to protect over 25 lakh students from serious health risk given the rising number of infections and deaths from Covid-19.
*The joint petition was filed by West Bengal law and labour minister Maloy Ghatak, Jharkhand finance minister Rameshwar Oraon, Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma, Chhattisgarh food and civil supplies minister Amarjeet Bhagat, Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and Maharashtra higher education minister Uday R Samant.
*The ministers sought review of the August 17 order of a bench headed by Justice Mishra, which had dismissed PILs seeking postponement/ cancellation of NEET-UG and JEE (Main) on the ground of the pandemic. With solicitor general Tushar Mehta assuring the court that the National Testing Agency has taken all precautions to protect students from infection, the SC had said examinations could not be cancelled as “life must go on”.
*The apex court had on August 17, dismissed a plea by one Sayantan Biswas and others seeking direction to NTA to postpone them after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured that all safeguards would be taken.
*The review petition said the mere fact that lakhs of students have registered for the exam is not indicative of their consent or their willingness or their desire to attend physical exams.
It said the August 17 order is “cryptic, non-speaking” and does not discuss various aspects and complexities involved in a matter of this magnitude.
*The plea said that only two reasons given by the court – life must go on and students should not lose an academic year – do not constitute an authoritative and comprehensive judicial scrutiny of the issue.
*It said that the apex court’s observation that “Life Must Go On” may have very sound philosophical underpinnings but cannot be a substitute for valid legal reasoning and logical analysis of the various aspects involved in the conduct of the
NEET UG and JEE exams.
*The petition said that as per the NIA press release, approximately 9.53 lakhs and 15.97 lakhs students have been registered for JEE (Main) and
NEET (UG) 2020 respectively.
*The plea said that JEE Mains is slated to be conducted over 660 exam centres with 9.53 lakhs students appearing for it, roughly 1,443 students per centre. Similarly for
NEET UG, 15.97 lakhs students will appear in 3,843 centres across the country, nearly 415 students per centre, it said.
“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 pandemic i.e. social distancing and avoidance of large public gatherings. On this short ground alone, the Impugned Order deserves to be recalled and the examinations deserve to be postponed,” the plea said.
*The petitioners do not wish to make any value judgment or political criticism of the Union government in such times but the undisputed facts are that there has been an exponential increase in COVID-19 positive cases as well as deaths due to the virus from April onwards.
*“It is rather ironical that at the initial stage when there were much lesser number of COVID-19 positive cases, the examinations were postponed and now when the daily spread of the virus is at its peak the examinations are directed to be conducted forthwith,” the plea said.