Can’t defer exams, says UPSC

With just days remaining for the October 4 Civil Services Preliminary Examination to be taken by nearly 600,000 candidates across India, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) told the Supreme Court on Monday that delaying the test further was “impossible”.

The Commission, the top government recruitment body, was responding to a plea by 20 civil services aspirants who want a postponement of the examination because of the Covid-19 pandemic and floods in some states.

“I have gone through the petition filed before the Court and I find that it is completely impossible to consider shifting the examination,” UPSC counsel Naresh Kaushik told a three-judge bench headed by justice AM Khanwilkar. “The examination was to be conducted on May 31, but could not be conducted due to the pandemic. Any further deferment will scuttle the appointment process.”

The UPSC came out with a revised examination schedule on June 5, fixing the date for the preliminary examination on October 4. “Four months time was given to all states to prepare for the offline examination to be conducted across many cities. By now, all machinery has been put in place,” Kaushik said.

The bench, also comprising justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, said, “You file an affidavit putting out all logistical arrangements that have been made. We will hear the matter on Wednesday.”

The 20 petitioners before the Court belonged to different parts of the country and claim that participating in an examination in the prevailing circumstances poses a risk to their safety and health. Their petition stated that unlike engineering or medical entrance examination where non-conduct of examination will disturb the entire academic year’s curriculum, the Civil Services Preliminary Examination was simply a recruitment test.

The petitioners claimed that in some states, active Covid-19 cases were large and in some states, cases were few. Holding an exam in such a scenario would be discriminatory against students facing curbs.

Along with the petitioners, an application was moved by the father of a serving assistant commandant with one of the central paramilitary forces who is performing duty at a Covid-19 quarantine centre while at the same time preparing for the exam.

The application urged the court to defer the exam as the petitioner’s son was faced with “a peculiar position of difficulty” owing to his special and increased workload because of the pandemic. “It is purely a recruitment examination and weighing the pros and cons of conducting the exam in the backdrop of the pandemic situation…appears that such a massive movement in these times is beyond all logic and respect for human lives,” it stated.

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