Covid wave: Supreme Court likely to decide on GATE on Thursday
The Supreme Court will decide on Thursday a plea to postpone on account of the third Covid wave the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering Exam (GATE) to be conducted by IIT Kharagpur this year.
Over 9 lakh candidates are to take GATE at 200 centres across the country on February 5, 6, 12 and 13. The exam primarily tests the comprehensive understanding of undergraduate subjects in engineering and science for admission into the master’s programmes and recruitment by some public sector companies
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana agreed to list the matter for urgent hearing when advocate Pallav Mongia, appearing for petitioners Sachin Tanwar and others, sought the court’s immediate intervention to prevent possible further spread of Covid on account of the exam.
The bench, which also had Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, listed the matter before another bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, which will take up the matter for hearing on Thursday, two days before the scheduled start of the exam.
The petitioners said they were constrained to seek “postponement of… GATE… in the light of the extraordinary rise in Covid cases all over India”.
The petition also sought to challenge the Centre’s instructions dated January 15, 2022, permitting candidates with Covid symptoms to appear for GATE without making separate arrangements for them.
The Centre and IIT Kharagpur have been made respondents 1 and 2.
The petitioners pleaded that the country was in the grip of the third wave of the pandemic. “In this frightening situation that has engulfed the whole country, the petitioners are being forced to write GATE physically, which poses a massive health risk on the lives of many aspirants like the petitioners,” the petition stated.
“For many, their whole lives depend on this exam, but the petitioners are forced to choose between their careers and their life and thus forcing the petitioners to write… this exam in such a medically threatening situation is an arbitrary and unreasonable decision on the part of respondent No. 1 thus violating Article 21 (life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India.
“…The respondents have not taken into consideration the possibility of conducting GATE-2022 in physical mode turning into a potential super spreader…. More than 9 lakh students are appearing for the exam across 200 centres. The respondents have not issued any guidelines or set out a procedure to assess the health conditions of the students appearing for the exam,” the petitioners said.
According to the candidates, the authorities have allowed candidates with Covid symptoms to appear for the exam but not said how they would be segregated from the others.
“In such a situation it is extremely risky for students to appear for the exam in the physical mode when no proper medical guidelines or procedures are in place at the exam centres,” the petition said.
Pointing to the huge burden of Covid cases in major cities, the petition said: “In such a grim situation across the country, the action of the respondents to conduct GATE-2022 in the physical mode poses a massive health risk not just for the students appearing in the exam but also for the common man.”