HC says varsity cannot deny extra answer-sheets to students

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today issued an interim order directing the Mumbai University to ensure that students appearing for undergraduate and postgraduate examinations are provided with “supplements” or extra answer sheets if they require it to complete their answers.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and BP Colabawalla said that while the university had prohibited the students from asking for extra sheets, or “supplements” as they are called, to avoid problems in its online assessment system, the students could not be penalised for its “erroneous” decision.

“We have come across several matters where students are suffering on account of erroneous decisions by the university.

“Several petitions have been filed in court alleging that their supplementary answer sheets were lost by the university, and they had thus, lost out on marks. The university gave such students marks based on the principle of averages only after the court intervened,” the bench said.

“Hence, it appears that the university has now come up with the novel idea that if there are no supplements there won’t be any question of supplements being lost,” the bench said.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by a final year law student from the city challenging a circular issued by the university in October this year saying that students will not be provided supplements or additional answer sheets during exams.

The university had argued that all answer sheet booklets issued by the university have separate bar codes, and since the main answer sheet booklets and the supplements booklets had different barcodes, confusion occurred during their online assessment.

It had also argued that in several cases, the main booklet and the supplements of one student were marked assuming they belonged to different students, and in other cases several supplementary sheets had also been misplaced.

Thus, the authorities had decided to direct the students to limit their answers to the 37-page long main answer booklet in all exams.

The bench, however, rejected the University’s argument that the main answer booklet was enough for all students to complete their answers.

It said that it was “common knowledge” that the handwriting of every student was different, and while some students might not even use up the entire main answer booklet, other students might need extra sheets.

“The idea is that students are provided with as many pages as required to complete their answers. Now whether you provide them loose sheets or another booklet is up to you,” it said.

“Effectively, we cannot allow the university’s last minute decisions to prejudice the rights of the students,” it said.

It also rejected the university claim that there was no scope for the HC to intervene in its decisions.

“While we’ll deal with this (the above argument) during the final hearing, can’t allow the university to prejudice students. The university’s circular, a piece of paper, can’t be considered as a piece of delegated legislation,” it said.

The petitioner, Manasi Bhushan, who is a final year student of Law, had approached the high court earlier last week arguing that the university’s decision to prohibit students from using supplements was arbitrary and erroneous.

Her counsel, advocate Vishal Kanade had argued that the university must fix the problems in its online assessment process instead of denying supplements to students.

He had also said that students, especially those who were studying law, often needed to write longer, more subjective answers and thus needed supplements. PTI


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