Covid-19: Centre agrees to give UPSC prelim candidates an extra attempt

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NEW DELHI: Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it will grant one more opportunity to those civil service aspirants who had their last chance to attempt the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam in October 2020 but were not able to appear due to Covid-19 pandemic. 

The one-time relaxation is only for those aspirants who are not age-barred, the centre told a bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar.

“Relaxation, only to the extent of providing one extra attempt for Civil Service Examination (CSE), specifically limited to CSE-2021, may be granted to only those candidates who appeared for CSE-2020 as their last permissible attempt and are otherwise not age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021,” the Centre said.

In a note filed in the apex court, the Centre said that no relaxation shall be granted for CSE-2021 to those candidates who have not exhausted their permissible number of attempts.

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Additionally, there is no relaxation for those who are otherwise age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021 as per the prescribed age limits of different categories, or to any other candidate for any other reason whatsoever.

The centre said that this relaxation will not be treated as a precedent and “shall not create any vested right whatsoever” on the ground of parity or otherwise, in favour of any other class of candidates in the future.

The bench told additional solicitor general SV Raju to circulate the note and asked the petitioners to file their responses to it.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by Rachna Singh, a civil services aspirant, seeking an extra attempt in the UPSC exams for those candidates who had missed their last chance to attempt the preliminary exam due to Covid-19.

The civil services preliminary exam was initially scheduled in May 2020 but had to be postponed to October 4 due to the pandemic. Several students could not sit for the exam due to Covid-19. In its affidavit filed earlier in the top court, the Centre had said the contention by the petitioners that their preparation was hampered due to the stress caused by the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic does not hold weight.

“The UPSC had already given extra time to the candidates by postponing the civil service (preliminary) examination from May 31, 2020, to October 4, 2020,” Centre said.

“It is further submitted that giving an additional attempt or relaxation in age for some candidates would amount to extending differential treatment for similarly placed candidates at the examination,” it had said.

The Centre added that providing an extra attempt could further have “cascading effect” by creating a ground for the challenge by candidates, who have already appeared for the October 2020 exam.

It had said that non-final attempt candidates, who took the examinations without any murmur or discontent, would disadvantageously be placed in the future examination.

“If the relief is granted to the petitioners as it would enable a vast number of experienced candidates, to participate in the examination again,” said the Centre. It had said 4,86,952 candidates appeared in the October 4, last year examination and the UPSC had “left no stone unturned in their pursuit to accommodate for the means and interests of the candidates”.

The top court on September 30 last year had refused to postpone the UPSC civil services preliminary exam because of the Covid-19 pandemic and floods in several parts of the country.

However, it had directed the central government and the UPSC to consider granting an extra chance to candidates who have their last attempt in 2020, with a corresponding extension of the upper age-limit.

The Central Government & UPSC have combinedly decided to provide with “one-time, restricted relaxation to prospective candidates” who had their last attempt in October 2020. The decision is taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic due to which many aspirants were not able to take up the exam. Now with UPSC CSE 2021 Notification Expected on 10th of Feb, 2021. it’s high time to get started with your preparations.

A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar had taken note of the submissions of Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing on behalf of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

The court was hearing a plea by several candidates who had appeared for their last attempt in the civil services (preliminary) examination, 2020 held on October 4. They prayed for a direction to the Centre to provide them “one extra attempt…in addition to number of permissible attempts, in view of innumerable, inevitable circumstances suffered by them due to Covid-19 pandemic, which prevailed in the entire country during the crucial period of their preparation and even on the date of examination, including but not restricted to rendering services as corona warriors, Covid infection to family members, suffering trauma physical and mental, lack of minimal proper infrastructure to prepare for the examinations, loss of income making it difficult to even survive during the pandemic”.

Source: TOI

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