COVID-19: HC refuses to postpone Mar 13-14 judicial exam

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New Delhi, Mar 12 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Friday refused to postpone Delhi Higher Judicial Service Main Examination-2019, scheduled on March 13-14, till the COVID-19 vaccination drive is complete for lawyers.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and A J Bhambhani said the exam cannot be postponed at the eleventh hour as other candidates who have already arrived for writing the exam would be prejudiced.

“We are not going to postpone the exam. Other candidates would suffer,” the bench said.

The court was hearing a petition filed by one of the candidates going to appear for the examination submitting that the petitioner is suffering from severe medical conditions, leaving him at a risk of serious and life threatening complications if he contracts coronavirus.

The bench issued notice to the Delhi High Court administration on the petition and asked them to file response in four weeks.

The bench perused the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be adopted by the high court for conducting the exam on Saturday and Sunday and considered the concession made by the high court administration.

“We direct them (high court administration) to provide the petitioner with a separate room in which he may write the subject examination.

“It is further directed that the Delhi High Court shall provide the petitioner with every necessary medical assistance as may be required by him in view of his stated medical condition,” the bench said and listed the matter for further hearing on May 5.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing the petitioner, said he was seeking postponement of the exam appearing physically as it would expose the candidate to medical risks.

When the court asked the court what would happen to other candidates who might have arrived here already for the exam, Luthra said “that is why I had approached the court on March 9. I am not seeking cancellation, I am only asking to defer the exams till vaccination drive is completed qua lawyers.” On being asked by the bench as to when did the petitioner write to the high court seeking to postpone the exam, the counsel said they did not do so.

Advocate Ankit Jain, representing the high court administration, said examination will be conducted in three buildings of the high court and on each floor there will not more than 36 candidates.

He further stated that the authorities are willing to provide a separate room to this candidate, in view of his medical condition, and no other candidate will be there.

The petition, filed through advocates Aditya Kapoor, Kushal Kumar, Harsh Ahuja and Akash Deep Gupta, sought quashing of February 18 notification issued by the Delhi High Court notifying the schedule of the examinations on March 13 and 14.

The petitioner said he is a meritorious and middle-aged person who is suffering from severe health problems of cancer and had undergone radiation therapy with administration of chemotherapy doses and is currently having an extremely weak immunity. He said he is at a higher risk of severe complications from contracting coronavirus.

The plea claimed that the notice is violative of the fundamental rights by forcing the candidates, like the petitioner, to risk their health and safety in the current situation of COVID-19 pandemic.

It said many states, including Delhi, are witnessing a rise in COVID-19 cases and there are more than 1,701 active cases in the national capital as on March 4, 2021, and around 240 new cases per day are getting detected on a daily basis.

'In view of the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in many states including Delhi, the conduct of main exams in the month of March, 2021 would unjustly expose the candidates including the petitioner to the high risks of contracting coronavirus.

'It is also submitted that many candidates including the petitioner for the exam are of matured age and most of them also have compromised immunity due to various ailments,” the petition submitted.

It also referred to recent suo moto cognisance taken by the high court on the demand for vaccinating judges, court staff and lawyers on priority basis and said it might be possible that the issue of vaccination is decided by the central government soon and it would allow lawyers to get vaccinated and thereby diminishing the risk of contracting the virus.

'The absence of any urgency to conduct the main examinations and presence of the risks involved in conducting the examinations thus call for the postponement of the main examinations,' it said.

The result of the preliminary examinations was declared on February 13 last year, wherein 280 candidates were shortlisted to appear for the Delhi Higher Judicial Service Main Examination (Written)-2019. The main exams were postponed in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and fresh dates were to be announced later. PTI SKV RKS RKS