Karnataka govt says board exams for classes 5, 8, 9 and 11 in students interest, parents not against it

The Karnataka government on Thursday told the High Court that board exams proposed to be conducted this academic year for students of classes 5, 8, 9 and 11 in schools affiliated to the state board are in the interest of students.

Additional Advocate General Vikram Huilgol appearing for the state said that no student or parent has come before the court because it is in their interest. The counsel added that if the exam is to be quashed now, the respective schools will have to draw the exams for the students. He explained that it is not that exams will not be held but they will now have to tell govt school teachers to set the exams paper where the standards will drop. 

He further underlined that board exams ensure uniformity in exams. Considering the scenario, the advocate urged the court to permit them to conduct the exams, adding that they believe that they are acting in the interest of students. He asserted that the petitioners possibly in their conduct are acting against the overall interest of students.

The division bench comprising Justice K Somashekhar and Justice Rajesh Rai K was hearing state’s appeal against a single bench order quashing its decision to hold the said exam this academic year. The initial pleas challenging the exam were lodged by Registered Unaided Private Schools Management Association and Organisation for Unaided Recognised Schools.

The division bench had stayed the single judge decision of quashing the notifications but the Supreme Court, in a setback to the state, put the interim order on hold. The hearing on Thursday was on the merits of the appeal.

AAG contended that the impugned notifications quashed by the single judge merely designate Karnataka School Examination and Assessment Board (KSEAB) as the competent authority to organise the exam and it is the Government Order dated November 16, 2023 which in fact declares that board exams for classes 5th, 8th, 9th and annual examination for class 11th for the subject academic year will be held. Nonetheless, the Government Order remained unchallenged.

AAG also submitted that the decision to conduct board exams will be taken on a yearly basis on the grounds of the prevailing facts and circumstances and thus clarified that the impugned notifications dated October 6, 2023 and October 9, 2023 do not in any way declare that board examination would be conducted for the academic year 2023-24.

Furthermore, he argued that the notifications give no cause of action for the petitioners. In the absence of a challenge to the said Government Order, the Single Judge ought not to have proceeded to examine the question as to whether the Appellants herein followed the procedure contemplated under law to prescribe the impugned scheme of assessment.

Additionally, the AAG submitted that Section 22 of the Karnataka Education Act empowers the competent authority to regulate the examination system by prescribing internal assessment, external assessment or partly internal and partly external assessment. He further argued that to exercise such powers, issuance of notifications by way of executive action is sufficient and there is no mandate under Karnataka Education Act to formulate Rules for holding exams.

He submitted that the Single Judge has proceeded to quash the impugned Notifications, sans any observation, either on the power of the State Government under Section 22 of the Karnataka Education Act to regulate the scheme of assessment/examination or the power of the KSEAB under Section 15(a)(iv) of the KSEAB Act. He mentioned that if every notification is published after inviting objections then the government will not be able to function.

Meanwhile, the bench also heard a few intervenors before rejecting a memo seeking to refer the appeal to a larger bench. Advocate A Velan appearing for the intervenor argued that the issue arises almost every year and affects lakhs of students and thus it would be ideal if the issue is resolved by an authoritative judgment of a larger bench. 

The division bench, however, took cognizance of the Supreme Court’s order which put DB’s interim order on hold and observed that the apex court had directed the division bench to decide the writ appeals on merits and in accordance with law without being influenced by the observations made by it.

The bench said that keeping in view the order rendered by the Supreme Court, the memo stands dismissed. The matter is now scheduled for hearing tomorrow.

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