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Maharashtra: Bombay HC strikes down CET for class XI admissions

August 10, 2021

The Bombay High Court today cancelled the Common Entrance Test (CET) to class XI aka first year junior college (FYJC) admissions scheduled for August 21 saying “No purpose or object would be achieved if CET examination is allowed to be held”.  It asked the government to begin the admissions process for FYJC immediately on the basis of the students’ class X evaluation method or internal assessment scores and complete the process within six weeks. The Court was hearing a bunch of writ petitions filed by parents opposing the CET examination. The students belonged to the Council of Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (CISCE) and Cambridge Assessment International Education International (CAIE) that conducts the General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) board exams.

The division bench of Justices R. I Chagla and R.D Dhanuka  also set aside the state’s May 28, 2021 government resolution (GR) regarding the CET examination saying the government did not have the power to issue such a notification under the Maharashtra Secondary and Higher Secondary Boards Act (1965)  and the Maharashtra Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Boards Regulations (1977).  The bench further refused to stay its decision thus quashing any possibility of the government filing for an appeal since the issue involved the “right to life” of lakhs of students.

Calling it a case of “extreme injustice” the Court said the case was fit for the Court to take a Suo Motu notice even in the absence of a petition challenging the notification. Noting that a physical examination would mean a large number of persons including students who had not been vaccinated coming together. This could “potentially trigger the spread of the deadly infection”  and affect students’ “right to life” due to the COVID-19 threat. It directed the government to issue an appropriate order cancelling the proposed CET examinations for the benefit of students and other stakeholders within 48 hours.  

Maharashtra requires class X students to seek fresh admissions into the state-run higher secondary classes XI-XII commonly referred to as junior college. With the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) class X board exams cancelled due to the rising COVID-19 cases during the second wave of the pandemic, the government decided to hold an offline physical CET for students seeking admissions to the state’s 7000 junior colleges offering arts, science and commerce streams.  The admissions to FYJC remain open to students of all national – Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the CISCE as well as international boards – (International Baccalaureate (IB) and CAIE board. The CET was to have 100-mark multiple choice questions (MCQ) pertaining to subjects like English, maths, science and social science subjects that are common to all boards. Each subject was to be assigned 25 marks each.

Education minister Varsha Gaikwad  had announced the CET to bring “uniformity and comparability in FYJC admissions and to ensure fair play for students across all boards.” Students’ CET scores were to be given preference for all FYJC admissions with the remaining vacant seats being disbursed to other non-CET students based on their class X internal assessment marks. While all students would get admissions to class XI, the CET allowed students to seek admissions to the college of their choice. Around 11 lakh students had registered for the CET this year and many of them belonged to different boards.  

However several parents’ associations representing various boards had opposed the decision and approached the government to have the CET exams cancelled in the wake of the continuing COVID-19 cases in the state. Parents of the CBSE, the IGCSE and the ICSE boards complained about the exam being discriminatory against their wards since the exam would be based on the state board syllabus. The petitioners had argued the exam date was made known at a short notice (July 19) and would lead to many non-vaccinated students in the 15-16 age group appearing for the offline exam putting their lives at risk.

Also Read:  Karnataka postpones CET exams 2021

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