Published: 29th July 2020
Thousands of students, parents terse as Karnataka HC gives go-ahead to conduct CET 14 hours before start of exam
The Government of Karnataka has ensured that wearing masks, social distancing and thermal screening will be strictly followed at the CET exam centres
After a legal battle that left lakhs of students hanging on to Twitter and television screens till 7.30 in the evening, the Karnataka High Court struck down the petitions and allowed the Government of Karnataka to go ahead with the Common Entrance Test on July 30 and 31. The petitions had been filed challenging the conduct of this exam during the prevailing COVID pandemic.
The Common Entrance Test (CET) is meant for PUC 2 students and the marks scored in this exam will allow them to choose the courses they want to pursue. This year, a total of 1,94,356 students will write CET in 497 centres across the state of which around 40,200 students will write exams in 83 centres in Bengaluru.
The bench consisting of Justices Aravind Kumar and M I Arun rejected the interim petition and said, "CET cannot be stalled and all students who come from different states and districts to write exams should be allowed to write CET. The Court is only looking at the decision-making process and not the decision itself." But even before the court rejected the interim prayer placed by the petitioner, they asked if the government will provide transport to the students coming from containment zones and also enquired as to what would happen to students who don't have fitness certificates from a medical practitioner? To this, advocate AAG Dhyan Chinnappa, representing the state government said, "The government has already allowed buses to commute across Bengaluru and if there are special requests then, the government the facilitate the same." he added that the government has also agreed to allow students to use hall tickets as passes to come out of the containment zones and that no students shall be stopped from writing exams.
Karnataka High Court
Amidst all this, Dr Ashwath Narayan C N, Minister for Higher Education, had already told the media that the state will not change its decision and they have made all the arrangements to go ahead with the exams. On July 27, Eric Steaphens, NSUI Secretary along with the five other students had filed a Public Interest Litigation challenging and opposing the conduct of CET due to the increasing COVID cases. Even before filing a PIL, the NSUI members from Karnataka had protested before Raj Bhavan while wearing PPE kits asking the government to postpone CET. However, the government did not pay heed to these protests. The PIL was listed before the High Court and was heard on July 28 and the Chief Justice heard the matter and took into consideration several issues and concerns raised by the advocate representing the petitioners. As on July 29, there were 16,005 containment zones. Furthermore, the government was asked to look at the plight of students travelling from different districts/ states and containment zones where transport is a huge problem. In fact, the petition also stated that the state board could consider marks and rank list of PUC 2 or class 12 in order to admit students in professional courses, for this year alone.
On the second day of the hearing, July 29, the advocate representing the petitioners Anil Kumar, Abdul Mannan Khan who appeared as a party in person, Senior Advocate AS Ponnanna and AAG Dhyan Chinnappa argued with various facts and figures and compared the state's success rate of conducting the SSLC and PUC 2 exams. The division bench also asked several questions to understand the preparedness of the state. Ponnanna argued that the state cannot put students' health at risk as it is a violation of Article 14 and 21. He also argued that when exams like JEE and NEET have been postponed to September 13, what was the necessity for the state to conduct CET now. Meanwhile, Anil Kumar argued that there was no portal or helpline to guide students who were already suffering from COVID-19. He even read out an email sent by a female student who said that she was tested positive for COVID and has not been able to study for the exams. Similarly, Khan stated that a large number of students have been tweeting to cancel CET due to the pandemic and this exam defines the career of the student, unlike SSLC.
When Chinnappa stated that over one lakh students have downloaded the hall ticket, there was a counter-argument stating that over 11,000 students have not been able to download the hall ticket due to technical glitches. The bench present there not only questioned Chinnappa but placed several points to the state government and told how parents and students have to face inconvenience due to these exams amidst pandemic. The bench mentioned that the situation from May 13, when the notification to conduct exams was released, was quite different from what it is today. Not just questioning the government, the bench even asked the government to reconsider its decision and said that it would be wise to postpone the exams. However, Chinnappa mentioned that the government has taken all sorts of measures to sanitise the classrooms, providing transportation to students, COVID positive patients will be kept in the separate rooms and students from other districts will be considered as business travellers.