New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed the petition seeking direction to postpone the schedule of Civil Services (Mains) Examination 2021 till the COVID-19 situation is normalized.
The bench of Justice V Kameshwar Rao after hearing the length arguments decided to dismiss the petition moved by several candidates.
Justice V Kameshwar Rao said, “I am not inclined to interfere with the decision. I am dismissing the petition.”
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) through Advocate Naresh Kaushik strongly opposed the petition and stated that candidates can follow basic protocols like wearing double masks to prevent themselves from infection. Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, UPSC is also taking all steps with the aid and assistance of district authorities to ensure the public interest is safeguarded.
“Out of 9156 candidates around 9100 candidates have already downloaded the admits cards. From tomorrow the exam is starting. Our supervisors have already reached the centres,” the advocate submitted.
Advocate Kaushik also submitted before the court that the Supreme Court last year rejected a similar petition.
Advocate Anushree Kapadia, appearing for petitioners (candidates), submitted that the candidates will have to take the risk of travelling; from hotel to centres to their home towns.
Pressing that the COVID wave is contagious, Advocate Kapadia said, “Tomorrow there are two papers for 6 hours. Candidates will have to sit for 6 hours in one examination room. Petitioners have already made representations to UPSC on which no steps were taken which is why the petition was filed yesterday. A press release was issued yesterday which had no mentions of SOP.”
Advocate Kapadia further submits that the petitioners are not only here for the fundamental right to remain safe but also for the legal right that we have acquired by passing prelims.
The petition was filed by nineteen candidates who have cleared their UPSC Civil Services Examination 2021 – Preliminary Examination and now have to appear in the Mains Examination of the said CSE 2021.
The plea states that due to the imminent third wave of COVID 19 with its new variant Omicron the petitioners not only run into the imminent risk of getting infected and getting a threat to their life but also are at risk of losing out on their valuable attempt, which, for some candidates, is also a last attempt to give the examinations and all this without any fault on the part of the petitioners.
“Recently, COVID-19 has spread severely in several states, cities including various educational centres. The position cannot be disputed by the respondent also as the Governments are themselves issuing strict advisories including a weekend curfew, night curfews, shutdowns etc. in view of the situation /infection likely to get out of control at any point of time,” the petition copy stated.
“Despite the same, the schedule of examination is being maintained by the respondents in complete disregard of the legal and fundamental rights of the Petitioners and which non-action is ex facie arbitrary,” the petitioner alleged.
The petitioners, who are 19 aspirants, further submitted that the UPSC Mains Examination consists of nine papers (two qualifying papers and seven papers for counting the merit) for which the candidates have to travel to their centres and stay near the area continuously for 10 days.
The Mains Examination for CSE 2021 is presently scheduled from January 7, 2022, to January 16, 2022.
That the centres allotted for Mains examination are mostly in metro cities or state capitals which are densely populated and gaining the numbers of COVID-19 infections in an unprecedented manner.
Almost all the States and UTS in the country have started or are likely to immediately start issuing strict COVID-19 advisories restricting or prohibiting a range of activities including shutdowns, travel restrictions, night curfews, weekend curfews etc.
“For example, in Delhi, the Government has imposed a night curfew, weekend curfew, 2992 Containment zones have been declared, Libraries and classes are closed, Government offices are switched to Work from home and private offices are allowed to work with only 50 per cent capacity,” the plea read.