New Delhi: Amid the ongoing COVID pandemic, Maharashtra government had decided to cancel the final-year exams of all universities across the state. However, in a recent development, the University Grants Commission (UGC) today told the Bombay High Court that the Maharashtra government does not have the power to cancel final year degree examinations. Also Read - This Maharashtra Village Doesn't Sell Milk, But Distributes it for Free of Cost; Know Why

Last month, Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government had cancelled the final year examinations, citing the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act. The state government’s decision stood in contrast to the UGC guidelines issued on April 29 and July 6, 2020, asking all Universities and Institutions to conduct exams by the end of September 2020, the commission said in its affidavit. Also Read - UGC Final Year Exams: 'Reconsider September Decision', Punjab CM Urges PM Modi During COVID-19 Meet

The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed by Dhananjay Kulkarni, a retired teacher and former university senate member from Pune, challenging the Maharashtra government’s decision to cancel examinations. Also Read - Coronavirus Deaths in Maharashtra Cross 18,000 Mark; 293 New Fatalities Take State's Toll to 18,050

The UGC, in its affidavit, argued that these acts can not be invoked to “render the statutory provisions of another special Act such as The University Grants Commissioner Act nugatory”.

The guidelines were issued after the Union Ministry of Home Affairs allowed holding of examinations by universities and other institutions, the UGC said. The guidelines were issued to protect the academic and career interests of students and at the same time safeguard their health, it said.

The Maharashtra government’s decision “to defer the final year examinations or to graduate students without holding exams would directly affect the standards of higher education in the country,” the UGC said in its affidavit.

Meanwhile, an online petition written by the Joint Forum for Movement on Education (JFME) has been circulating on social media, seeking cancellation of final-year examinations in universities across India. After the plea collects 1000 signatures, it will be submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to push forward the demand.

This comes at a time when students and parents are unhappy over University Grants Commission (UGC)’s new guidleines allowing universities to conduct the final-year exams. Students feel that amid the ongoing COVID pandemic, appearing for exams can put their health at risk.