Delhi HC dismisses plea to postpone UPSC exam

Examination is scheduled from January 7-16

The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition to postpone the conduct of the Civil Services Mains Examination scheduled from January 7-16 in view of the severe spread of the COVID-19 infection.

“I am not inclined to interfere with the examination. I am dismissing the petition,” Justice V. Kameswar Rao said rejecting the plea filed by a bunch of candidates who have cleared their Civil Services Preliminary Examinations.

Critical areas

During the hearing, UPSC’s counsel Naresh Kaushik said, “This exam caters to the critical areas of governance. The retirements have already happened. And critical areas of governance have to be kept functional. Otherwise, how would the pandemic be managed. These are administrators in different fields and we are considering the larger public interest. As a result UPSC has taken the conscious decision to go ahead with the Mains Examination.”

“The rescheduling of exam have taken place already and as a result cascading effects are taking place,” he added.

The counsel further argued that the option of changing the centres have already been availed by 1,185 candidates. He said out of a total of 9,156 candidates, 9,085 have already downloaded their admit card.

“Only 61 candidates have made representation with the UPSC for postponing the exam,” Mr. Kaushik stated.

On the other hand, advocate Anushree Kapadia, appearing for the candidates, argued that her clients are constrained to approach the High Court as they not only run the “imminent risk of getting infected and getting threat to their life, but also are at a risk of losing out their valuable attempt, which for some candidates is also a last attempt to give the examinations”.

Ms. Kapadia said “the candidates need to survive this [pandemic] to get appointed. It is a very short sighted thing to say that because appointments are to be made COVID can also be discarded. There is certainly a fundamental right to remain safe. These exam are a test of knowledge of the candidates not of their immunity.”

In the plea, Ms. Kapadia argued that despite strict advisories including weekend curfew, night curfews, shut downs etc. put in place, the schedule of examination is being maintained by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in complete disregard of their legal and fundamental rights.

The candidates submitted that the UPSC Mains Examination consists of nine papers — two qualifying papers and seven papers for counting the merit — for which they have to travel to their centres and stay near the area continuously for 10 days.

The plea argued that there is no proper pre-examination testing. “Temperature checks can be cheated by taking paracetamol. If few candidates attempt examination with COVID then it might result in infecting all candidates as they have to spend six hours writing papers in the same room,” it said.

“Further, once infected, candidates will be prohibited from writing subsequent papers as per UPSC policy. They also risk spreading to others including their families,” the plea said.

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