The Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 30) quashed petitions that sought the postponement of the preliminary exam for UPSC civil services, scheduled to be held on October 4, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. It said cancelling the exam will have a cascading effect on other exams that have been scheduled.
The court, however, said the Centre could look at giving some relaxation for candidates who will not be able to appear for the exam again due to age restrictions.
The petitioners’ main contention was that many candidates will not be able to appear for the exam due to the COVID restrictions. Civil services aspirants now at the forefront of the fight against COVID may also not be able to appear as they would not be granted leave. Also, there are cases where this would be the last attempt possible given that the candidates would be past the maximum permissible age from next year, the petitioners said.
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The court, however, said that the UPSC has submitted details of the arrangements it has made for the exam. The petitioners cannot seek postponement saying candidates will not be able to appear, it said.
When the petitioners said transportation may be a problem, the court said that was the case in April but now most restrictions on travel have been removed.
When advocate Anushree Kapadia, appearing on behalf of the father of a CAPF officer looking after a quarantine centre who has not been granted leave and who will not be able to appear again due to age limit, said rural candidates will face transportation issues, the court said this happens at all places and that it is nothing new.
The court asked the UPSC if it has come across any case of people involved in fighting COVID expressing their inability to take the exam because they were not being given leave. The commission, represented by advocate Naresh Kaushik, said no one has approached it with such a problem.
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The court wanted to know if the UPSC could merge the exam for 2020 and 2021. The UPSC said that would not be possible now as all exam-related items, including OMR sheets for the October 4 exam, are already dispatched.
The SC then asked if the UPSC would allow candidates on their last attempt to take it one more time. When the additional solicitor general S V Raju said that would not be possible, the court said the Centre should give this some consideration. Raju said that it will be considered and a decision will be taken soon.
During the hearing of the petitions, the court took exception to the language used by the petitioners’ advocate. Senior advocate VK Shukla said that the UPSC was “bent upon” conducting the exams. The court, however, said that the commission was “duty-bound” to hold the exams and ask the advocate to use “different words”.