Author: - Tanya Mehta
4th Year B.A. LL.B
Ramaiah Institute of Legal Studies, Bengaluru
Article 21– Constitution of India – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law, nor shall any person be denied equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
Let’s discuss the case of Bandha Mufti Mocha v. Union of India. Are students just sacrificial lambs? It has been five months since the lockdown and the lives of the young and aspiring students have been sent into limbo. The recent judgment of the Apex court on conducting the JEE and NEET exam has caused heated debates concerning the safety of the students. It is not just JEE and NEET examinations, but various schools and universities across India are now of the opinion that it is safe for the students to travel back to their respective colleges and take the exams or start attending classes.
Most students are in favour of postponing the exams and do not want them to be cancelled in the first place. The education system in India is such that from a very young age, the students are taught to be competitive and take exams at every point in life. So, it’s unfair to say that the students have opted for escapism in such trying times.
2. THE CONCERNS
The students and parents have been in a tough spot. Many students have expressed their grief with the authorities but unfortunately, the government and the administration are turning a blind eye to this issue. The JEE and NEET examinations combined, bring in a huge number of aspirants into examination centres across the country. The former brings in about ten lakh students, whereas, the latter seats close to 16 lakh students. The crowd in each centre becomes unimaginable; now imagine the same crowd in times like such. Social distancing is bound to take a backseat with the kind of pressure and anxiety exams like these bring on the students. Even if it can be ensured inside the centres, the open waiting areas outside the centres are going to become hotspots for the virus. The government has increased the capacity of the centres by 50% since last year. Yet, the major issue remains; are these centres easily accessible for students living in remote areas? Technically speaking, having a couple of more centres in a metropolitan city is seemingly pointless if it doesn’t also extend the benefits to the students in rural areas.
According to the reports, in April when these exams were supposed to be conducted the number of cases was a lot less than what they are today. If then, the centre firmly decided to postpone them, then that conviction should surely be extended to the current times when the number of cases has skyrocketed. The WHO recently mentioned that the coronavirus can also be airborne for longer durations in crowded and closed spaces? In an exam that has the scale of JEE and NEET, the risk of it spreading becomes even worse.
The lockdown began in March, which was right in the middle of the academic calendar. All colleges had to adapt to the technological divide and continue classes in an online format. The syllabus was completed majorly via online classes, and reports from across the nation tell us that many students did not perform/participate well due to the poor internet connections, irregularity of classes, and various other reasons. Now, these students are suddenly being called-in for exams have no means or resources to sit for these exams, where they’ll also be risking their lives.
Earlier this month, when Delhi University decided to conduct online exams, it resulted in utter chaos. It also raised an important question regarding the mental health of students and individuals in general, something which has always been taken lightly in our society. Ever since the Supreme Court gave a go-ahead to these exams, there have been three student suicides. Yet, there has been no accountability on anybody’s part. Administratively speaking, in the few states which decided to hold offline exams, many students tested positive right after the exam, which further burdened the broken healthcare system. Not just the students but the invigilators and all other involved personnel were also put at risk, which only exacerbated this pandemic further. The case of Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India talks about this point in further detail.
There exists a definitive option before the government to put a lid in the volcano of cases that are spreading like wildfire in the country. India is already one of the worst affected countries and bringing millions of students into the lap of the pandemic is the decision facing our government.
The decision opens up the debate about just how important are the lives of the students to our government. The parliament, courts, offices continue to remain shut, whereas, the youth of our country is being treated like lab rats. Hopefully, the government hears the voices of the students and makes it easier for them to perform and excel in their respective fields, sooner rather than later.
 Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty “Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”
 (1997) 10 SCC 549.
 (1995 SCC (3) 42).