MUHS Offline Medical Exams Row: Plea seeks Bombay HC intervention
Nagpur: Challenging the recent decision of Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) to conduct offline examinations from June 10 onwards, a physiotherapy student along with an NGO has approached the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court seeking directions to hold either hold the examination online or only after all the students, support staff and teachers are vaccinated.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also challenged the State's direction of asking candidates to sign an undertaking relieving the State of any responsibility if any of the candidates test positive for Covid-19 after writing the examination.
MUHS, Union of India, the State Government and the National Medical Commission (NMC) have been made the respondents in the plea before the HC.
Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh had earlier clarified that exams would not be cancelled, deferred, or conducted via online mode. It was further confirmed by the minister that after deferring the exams three times, Maharashtra would ultimately hold the exams of MBBS students from 10th June to 30 June in offline mode and it would not be deferred any further.
The students have already submitted a letter to MUHS pointing out the situation where more than 3,000 students pursuing their medical education under the University have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, or have a family member affected with it. Apart from this, the students also pointed out how this decision to hold offline exam would compel them to fly back to Mumbai amidst the pandemic.
Almost 45,000 under-gradauate, post-graduate and certificate course students are likely to appear for the Winter Examination 2020.
With the fixed stand of MUHS to conduct offline examination, one of the students have now approached the High Court seeking direction upon the University to hold an online examination. Further the petition has sought to declare the May 19 circular of MUHS as "arbitrary and unreasonable" as it's violative of Articles 14 (Right to equality) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India, adds Live Law.
Submitting that many of the students contracted the virus after NEET examinations held last September, the petition asks to give priority to vaccinate the students.
The petition states, as quoted by Live Law, "The first priority must be to vaccinate the students…The petitioners submit that vaccination comes first and examination comes second. This sequence would be in conformity with Article 21 of the constitution of India as it would ensure that the students would be protected by the vaccine against the virus."
"No amount of money can bring a child back from death and to sacrifice the life of the future generation of the nation is not an example the respondents should set," it added.
Citing the examples of US, Singapore and Aligarh Muslim University who are likely to conduct online examination, the petition further pointed out that physical examinations across boards have been cancelled considering the life-risk associated with contracting the virus.
Mentioning that the examination schedule would expose the students to the deadly virus for almost 20 days, the petition further stated, "The petitioners submit that the approach of the respondents is absolutely flawed in the instant case. The respondents are giving priority to holding examinations as opposed to the life and safety of the students, the teachers, support staff and the family member of each one of them. It is submitted that the said exams can be held via online methods where the students can safely take the examination while being at home," adds Live Law.
Besides, the petition has also criticized the University's directions to sign an undertaking which violates the Article 21 of the constitution. The undertaking mentions, "that the respondents owe no responsibility if any of the students appearing for the examination contracts covid-19 either during the examination or while staying at the hostel or other residence near the examination centre," adds the daily.
Calling this undertaking arbitrary and unreasonable the petitioners have contended, "Further, the respondent being the State cannot within the meaning of Article 12 contract out of their fundamental duty to protect the lives of the citizen."
Requesting the court to "hold and declare" that the State cannot make students sign such an undertaking, the petition further mentioned, "Therefore, it is clear that the respondent have not applied their mind while taking the impugned decision and are trying to run away from their constitutional duty of protecting the right to life of its citizens by making their students sign the undertaking."