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Friday Apr 23 2021
Web Desk

Courts dismiss legal challenges to in-person Cambridge exams

Web Desk

  • Petitioners sought assessment on the basis of school grades instead of appearing for in-person exams.
  • Courts dismiss plea, ask petitioners to directly approach NCOC in the matter.
  • Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood says all Cambridge exams will proceed as per schedule.

The High Courts of first Peshawar and Lahore, and now Islamabad and Sindh have all dismissed petitions by students citing the risk of coronavirus and challenging the holding of in-person Cambridge exams.

The Sindh High Court pronounced its verdict around 4pm, at a time when the Islamabad High Court had already dismissed the students' pleas and directed them to directly present their case before the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

SHC's grounds for dismissal

The Sindh High Court, in its judgment authored by Muhammad Ali Mazhar, said that the petition is dismissed on the following grounds:

- The holding of in-person Cambridge exams, "does not infringe or intrude any fundamental rights of the petitioners".

- "The petitioners cannot claim any vested right to evaluate or appraise their credentials and competence by dint of “school assessed grades” and not by means of physical examination," read the judgment.

- The court observed that NCOC's decision was "based on number of circumstances on facts and expert opinion, forethought and premeditation of all pros and cons and it does not seem to be arbitrary, discriminatory or violative of any constitutional, statutory or any other provisions of law".

- It said hence, it does not find "any justification or rationale to interfere" in the decision.

- The court further cited "all arrangements" being made to hold the exams in-person and that a "large number of students throughout the country are geared up to appear".

- The judgment states a "few students only" approached the court to stay the examination and "hamper the entire process which is totally unwarranted and prejudicial to the interest of large number of those students who are ready to appear and making preparation religiously".

IHC's grounds for dismissal

Earlier in the day, Chief Justice IHC Athar Minallah observed the petitioners had invoked the jurisdiction of this court under Article 199 of the Constitution "seeking direction to the federal government".

In a nutshell, the petitioners sought directions so that they could be assessed on the basis of school grades using student work instead of appearing for exams in-person.

"The petitioners are in fact seeking a direction to be assessed in a particular mode i.e. based on school grades. The decision as to what mode should be adopted to assess the students pursuing O and A level courses is definitely a policy matter," the IHC CJ said.

"Moreover, since the grievance is in the context of the crisis of COVID-19, therefore, the competent forum to consider and formulate the policy in consultation with respondents no. 2 and 2, falls within the domain of respondent no. 3 i.e. National Command and Operation Center," he said.

"The prayer sought in the instant petition is not justiciable. The petition is, therefore, accordingly dismissed," he added.

The petitioners' lawyer Jibran Nasir said the IHC had dismissed the petition against Cambridge Exams in limine, contesting that courts cannot interfere with NCOC's decisions.

When are exams due?

According to Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood, all Cambridge exams will proceed as per schedule, and will not be making use of teacher-assessed grades this year, which means that AS and A Level exams will begin on April 26 and O Level and IGCSE exams on May 10.

Matriculation and Intermediate board exams, on the other hand, have been deferred and will take place varyingly across provinces, starting in late May.

'No lockdown for now, follow coronavirus SOPs'

The government today decided against implementing a full lockdown across the country, but Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the public to follow coronavirus standard operating procedures to avoid a "complete lockdown".

PM Imran Khan addressed the nation after chairing an important meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) Friday afternoon to give an update on the new coronavirus restrictions as the country battles the third wave of the virus.

The premier announced that a lockdown would not be implemented for now as it will affect the working class and their businesses.

Schools in cities with positivity rates above 5% closed until Eid, including classes 9-12.