The Delhi High Court Thursday dismissed a plea seeking the postponement of the UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination, scheduled to start from Friday at centres across the country, in view of the sudden surge in Covid cases.
“I am dismissing the petition. I am not interfering with the decision. I will pass the orders,” said Justice V Kameswar Rao, rejecting the plea filed by 19 candidates who have cleared their Civil Services Preliminary Examinations and sought a direction to postpone the Mains scheduled from January 7 to 16.
They said in their petition that the exams should be deferred in view of the severe spread of the COVID-19 infection, particularly, the Omicron variant which is now spreading faster in India than any previously found variant.
“Due to the imminent third wave of COVID-19 with its new variant Omicron the petitioners not only run imminent risk of getting infected and getting threat to their life, but also are at a risk of losing out their valuable attempt, which for some candidates is also a last attempt to give the examinations and all this without any fault on their part. Recently, COVID-19 has spread severely in several states, cities including various educational centers,” the plea said.
Advocate Anushree Kapadia, representing the petitioners, submitted that apart from those candidates who have already contracted the virus, others have the risk of catching the infection while taking the exams as they will be sitting in a room for six hours with 30 candidates.
She said there is a risk to public health and safety of the candidates and their families and there are no Standard Operating Procedures in place.
She contended the candidates will be taking the risk of travelling from hotels to centres and then back to their hometowns exposing them to the virus.
The plea was opposed by the counsel for the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) who said similar pleas were also filed to postpone the preliminary examinations when the Delta variant of COVID-19 was rising and the Supreme Court had rejected it.
Advocate Naresh Kaushik, appearing for the UPSC, said only a miniscule number of candidates have approached the court seeking the postponement of the exam which cannot be done at this stage as all the preparations have been done by the authorities and candidates have burnt midnight oil preparing for the examination.
He said out of 9,100 candidates who cleared the preliminary exams, 9,085 have already downloaded the admit cards and the new variant of the virus is mild and that exams will be conducted in a guarded manner.
The counsel further said this is not the only examination which is being conducted during the pandemic and several other exams were also held and added that the candidates should follow basic COVID-19 protocols like wearing masks to prevent themselves from the virus.
He said the candidates were earlier given an option to change their centres and 1,185 of them have got their centres changed.
The counsel said there are 24 examination centres and 58 sub-centres and supervisors, in addition to examiners, head examiners and other staff are physically present at the centres.