Frontlist Education | HC questions DU on lack of preparedness for holding exams for differently abled students

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Tuesday questioned the Delhi University of its lack of preparedness and facilities, including arrangement of scribes and CSE Centers, for differently abled students to enable them to appear in the Open Book Examinations (OBE) for final year undergraduate courses.

The high court sought to know how many students in the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) category have applied to take exams through Common Service (CSE) Centers, which have been set up to provide services to students who do not have infrastructure to give OBE. However, the university was unable to respond to the query and sought time to get the details. “This is how you are concerned for the career of PwD students who have to appear for final year exams. Thanks to UGC’s own guidelines which makes it mandatory to conduct examinations for final year students. We are aware that the challenge to UGC guidelines is before the Supreme Court. But we will surely ask questions about your preparedness for the exams,” a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said.

High Court on UGC guidelines

The high court was hearing pleas by law student Prateek Sharma and National Federation of Blind seeking to set up effective mechanisms for visually impaired and specially-abled students so that educational instructions can be transmitted to them properly and teaching material is provided to them through online mode of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I am sure DU is cognisant of the fact that the career of students is at stake, how can you be so slow,” Justice Kohli asked the university. The high court further sought to know whether the claim of petitioners that PwD students are not being given reading material, assistant devices and writing scribes, is true.
Government affidavit
It noted that the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Electronics and Technology were earlier directed to file affidavits about the CSC centers and their preparedness including availability of scribes. However, the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Electronics and Technology is silent on the number of non functional CSE centers, the bench said, adding that the issue of absence of infrastructure at the centers has also to be addressed. It said despite directions, DU has not filed its affidavit in the matter and sought time to do so. “It is important for us to know that if the students who have asked for scribes will be able to interact with them two days before the exams?,” the bench said while noting the submission of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Sharma, that as per the varsity’s guidelines, scribe will be given to the student before the exams to know the suitability. Sibal also submitted that many students reside at remote places and the CSE center is not there and hence presence of CSE Academy is important before the court to know about the availability and logistics of these centers. The high court asked the representative of CSE Academy, which has an agreement with DU to help the varsity in conducting the OBE, to be present before it on July 30, to know how many CSE centers across the country are situated in metropolitan and rural areas.

Availability of CSE Centers

It also sought to know that out of 2,75 lakh students, who have applied for OBE, how many have asked for services of CSE Centers and how many reside in remote places. Senior advocate R S Rhungta, appearing for National Federation of Blind, said around 200 visually challenged students have not participated in the mock tests as reading material was not provided to them. He said when colleges were informed about the need of writing scribes, one of the principal said they were not able to provide scribe as it was not possible to give scribe at the pandemic time without knowing the health status of the student. DU’s professor Anil Aneja, who handles the issues of PwD students, submitted that students had to buy assistant devices on their own but they have not received any request for reimbursement of the amount paid. When the high court asked about the number of students who have asked for scribes to write the exams, DU’s Dean of Examinations Professor Vinay Gupta said 58 students have asked for scribes at home but it is difficult for them to accept the request. He said scribes can be provided at colleges or CSE Centers and not at the student’s home. The high court on July 14 had said the absence of IT facilities at several CSE centers needed to be addressed on war footing as the exams are going to start.

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