Online Examinations, Government agrees to address grievances of the blind students, Court however refuses to stay the Examination Process
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The Delhi High Court taking cognizance of petition by National Federation of the Blind, who have been asked to appear for the Online Examinations of the Delhi University has directed UGC, Central Government and the Delhi University to consider their grievances and find a solution for such blind students.
The Petition filed by National Federation of the Blind challenges the decision of the Delhi University (DU) for holding of Open Book Examination remotely for the final year/term/ semester students on the ground that the same is against the rights of students with visual impairment and other disabilities under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
The Petitioners had sought assessment of the performance of visually impaired and other disabled students of final semester/term/ year, both of UG and PG programmes, for Academic Session 2019-2020, on the basis of their performance in the previous semester as well as internal assessment, on the same basis as has been decided to be done for other intermediate semester students.
The Petitioners pointed out several difficulties which the students suffering from visual impairment, are likely to face, which are
(i) non-availability of scribes in the prevalent Covid-19 situation;
(ii) the hesitation of the scribes, even if available, to act as a scribe on account of social distancing norms still advised to be followed;
(iii) non-availability of course material with the students (we are informed that the course material was provided by the respondent No. 2 DU);
(iv) several of the students having left Delhi and being presently stationed at their hometowns/ cities/villages where it is not possible for them to participate in the Open Book Examination by downloading the question-paper and by uploading the answer-sheets; and,
(v) lack of assistive devices with the students at the place where they presently are.
The Hon’ble High Court did not consider the demand of the Petitioners for assessment on the basis of internal assessment only or on the basis of their performance in the earlier semester, taking a view that once the academic authorities competent to take a decision in this regard have taken a decision to hold an examination there is no need to interfere in the decision of the academic authorities.
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The University and the Government Authorities informed the Hon’ble Court that they will hold parlays with the petitioner and with representatives of students with other disabilities, to resolve the various difficulties which students with disabilities have expressed and find solutions therefor. The Counsel appearing for the Government also assured that if the study material of any of the students is locked in the hostel rooms, provision shall be made to enable the students to collect the said material as and when desired by them. It was also assured that if any additional study material is required, endeavour shall be made to provide the same.
The Respondents authorities assured the Court that a solution would definitely be placed before this Court with respect to each of the aforesaid apprehensions/difficulties expressed by the petitioner, on the next date, the Hon’ble Court has been pleased to schedule the matter on 12.06.2020.
Most importantly, the Court also clarified that pendency of this Petition shall not mean that Open Book Examination tentatively scheduled from 1st July 2020 will be delayed merely because this petition is filed or is being heard.
HC directs reimbursement of costs upto total of Rs.2 lakhs to visually impaired students, to procure books in accessible form and/or assistive devices for Examinations
We think that while observing the safety parameters and ensuring adequate provision for universal participation of all the categories of students, any decision to continue the education and academic process is legal and logical.
It is any case a settled law, that Courts generally do not interfere with decision by academic authorities, unless such decision is arbitrary and devoid of reasons.
Having said that our Government needs to take up significant measures for holistic inclusion of our fellow DIVYANGJANS, because we accept it or no, they really feel marginalised even today. Educational Institutions have been mandated to frame Equal Opportunity Policy to encourage social inclusion. However, not all have come up with the same.
We have moved some steps, but we have to go far towards their welfare.