Higher Education

Higher Education

Varsity order against students using supplementary answersheets stayed

PUBLISH DATE 16th December 2017

 In a setback to the University of Mumbai, the Bombay high court on Friday stayed the varsity’s order disallowing supplements or additional answersheets to students during the ongoing semester examinations.

A division bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Burgess Colabawalla observed that it was passing the orders due to “exceptional reasons” so that students do not suffer.

“We cannot permit the university to take a last-minute decision to the prejudice of students,” said the judges and pointed out that in law examinations, all the questions are subjective. “It is common knowledge that handwriting differs from person to person. Some students may not even use up the main answersheet. However, another student may require more than one supplement if his handwriting is different or if he writes detailed answers.”

The court granted an interim stay on the university’s directive and asked it to issue a new circular to permit additional supplements during the exams.

On October 9, the university’s board of examinations (BoE) had decided to do away with supplements and said students must finish their answers in the 40-page main answer booklet (only 37 pages can be used to write answers). The circular was challenged by a final-year student from Government Law College, Manasi Bhushan. Her lawyer Vishal Kanade said the varsity’s decision was arbitrary and violated the fundamental rights of students.

The bench, assigned to hear litigation relating to education, said in the past few months, it has been hearing many matters filed by students who are suffering because of the “erroneous decisions of the university”. It pointed out that following the introduction of the on-screen marking system (OSM), it had heard petitions filed by students whose answersheets or supplements had gone missing. In cases where the university was unable to trace the answersheets, the court had to intervene and average marks based on the scores in other subjects were awarded.

“It appears that faced with the difficulty (of missing answersheets), the university has come up with a novel idea. If there are no supplements, then there is no question of supplements being lost and no litigation,” remarked the judges.

Advocate Rui Rodrigues, counsel for the university, cited the Supreme Court’s decision that the court could not sit in appeal in matters of policy by the university or opinion of experts.

He sought a stay on the order, saying it would cause hardship in the midst of the ongoing semester examinations, in which it had already received over six lakh answer booklets. The court rejected the plea, saying a stay would be detrimental and “act to the prejudice of students”.

TIMES VIEW: Yet another hasty decision of the University of Mumbai has been stayed. It was telling that the high court said it had come across several matters where students were suffering on account of erroneous decisions by the university. It is high time the university mended its ways; it must stop taking last-minute decisions or ramming through ill-conceived projects relating to exams that directly affect students’ performance and their future.

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