States can't decide on cancelling final exams amid pandemic: UGC to SC

August 10, 2020

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New Delhi, Aug 10: Higher education regulator UGC on Monday told the Supreme Court that states can't decide on their own to cancel final examinations, as this might cause trouble in recognition of students degrees.

It opposed a decision taken by the Maharashtra and the Delhi governments to cancel exams due to Covid-19 pandemic.

A bench presided over by Justice A M Khanwilkar allowed the UGC to reply by August 14 to the states' move.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions including by Bengaluru resident Praneeth K and Yuva Sena, the students wing of Shiv Sena who have challenged the validity of July 6 notification by the UGC to the varsities to conduct their final exams by September 30.

On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the UGC, contended that it was not in interests of students not to have the exams. He said the UGC was the only body which can prescribe rules on conferring degrees.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate A M Singhvi contended that there was inconsistency in stands taken by the MHRD and the UGC.

The court said it would consider on Friday the response filed by states of Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab and Karnataka in the matter.

The UGC, in its response, had earlier maintained that its guidelines were issued in overall academic interest.

The UGC's guidelines "adequately account for the evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic because they provide sufficient time till September 30 to conduct final year examinations after following the protocols and procedures," it said.

The UGC also claimed the guidelines provided enough flexibility to universities and institutions to conduct such examinations online, offline (pen and paper) or blended (online and offline) mode. Further, it provided for an examination through a special chance for students who for whatsoever reasons are unable to appear for the examinations by September 30.

It also submitted that the decision of some state governments including Maharashtra and Delhi to cancel the final year examinations was contrary to its guidelines and would affect standard of higher education. This would also cause encroachment upon the legislative field reserved for it. 

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News Network
September 15,2020

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Bengaluru, Sept 15: Late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's aide V K Sasikala, serving a four year-term in a corruption case here, may be released from jail next January provided she paid the fine amount of Rs 10 crore, Karnataka Prison department has said.

Sasikala, lodged at the Parappana Agrahara Prison here, was convicted and sentenced in February 2017 in the Rs 66 crore disporportionate assets case. "As per prison records, convict prisoner number 9234 Sasikala's 'probable date of release' is January 27, 2021, provided in-default fine amount is paid as awarded by the honourable court," Superintendent of Central Prison at Parappana Agrahara, R Latha said in response to an RTI query.

The reply was to the query by activist T Narasimha Murthy on September 11. Latha added Sasikala's "probable date of release" would be February 27, 2022 if the fine is not paid.

The officer explained the probable date of release may vary if Sasikala utilises a parole facility. She will have to pay Rs 10 crore to walk out of prison on January 27, 2021, else spend another 13 months behind bars. After the Supreme Court restored the trial court judgement in toto against Sasikala and two of her close relatives in the disproportionate assets case,(V N Sudhakaran and J Elavarasi), she surrendered before the court in

Karnataka on February 15, 2017 and has been lodged in Parappana Agrahara Central Jail. Her two relatives are also undergoing four years simple imprisonment and all three of them were slapped with a fine of Rs 10 crore each.

With the death of Jayalalithaa in 2016, who was the first accused in the case, the appeal by Karnataka against her stood abated. Last week, Sasikala's counsel had expressed hope of her early release, possibly by the end of this month, citing remission for good conduct.

As per norms, three days of remission for good conduct is available for every month in jail and so far, she has completed 43 months, making her eligible for a reduction of

129 days in prison, "The Karnataka Prison Manual does not have any provision barring remission to those convicted for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

"As per the manual, I strongly believe that she will be released by the month end," her advocate N Raja Senthoor Pandian had said. When the remission of 129 days is applied, the release will be during the month end and not the previously expected date of January 2021, he had said.

Sasikala has already spent a total of 35 days in jail in 1997 and 2014 and availed a 17 day parole in 2017, which is deducted from the period she already served, he had said.

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Agencies
September 24,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 24: Bilkis, who became the face of a women-led anti-citizenship law protest at Shaheen Bagh here, on Thursday said she was happy to have been recognised by the TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020, but would have been happier had her demand been met.

The 82-year-old, along with her two friends Asma Khatoon (90) and Sarwari (75), was at the protest site every day, braving a chilly winter last December, the coldest in over a century. The trio were hailed as "Dadis of Shaheen Bagh" on social media.

"When we told her that she has been declared as one of the most influential people in the world, she just said 'okay'," her son Manzoor Ahmad told PTI on the phone.

She is not as excited as the family is, Ahmad, who works as a translator, said.

"I am thankful to the almighty. I would have been much happier had our demand been fulfilled...had the government listened to us and given us what we wanted (withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Act)," Bilkis said in a trembling voice.

"It is sad we had to call it (protest) off because of the disease (Covid-19). I was there till the end,” she said.

Ahmad said his mother had taken ill in December last year, but she continued going to the protest site.

“It was so cold and she was running a fever, despite that she went there to support other women,” he said.

Ahmad said all women in his family participated in the protest.

“We are a joint family. So, the women took turns to participate in the dharna,” he said.

The Shaheen Bagh protest demanding the government to withdraw the law went on for over a hundred days. It ended in March this year in view of the COVID-19 outbreak and a subsequent lockdown announced by the government to contain the spread of the disease.

Also on the TIME magazine's list from India are Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bollywood actor Ayushman Khurrana. 

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News Network
September 22,2020

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Geneva, Sept 22: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a record number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus registered across the world over the past week -- almost 2 million infections -- which marks the highest number in a single week so far.

"From 14 through 20 September, there were almost 2 million new cases of COVID-19, which represents a 6 per cent increase compared to the previous week, and the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic. During the same period, there was a 10 per cent decrease in the number of deaths, with 36,764 deaths reported in the past seven days," the WHO said in a situation report late on Monday.

In particular, an increase in the weekly case incidence rate was reported across all regions in the last seven days, except for Africa, with the two Americas remaining the worst-hit areas and accounting for over 38 per cent of all new cases reported over the past week.

Meanwhile, Europe showed the greatest increment in the number of fatalities in the past week, with a 27-per cent increase compared to the previous week.

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