Amid govt. flip-flop, Supreme Court holds order on UPSC aspirants

Govt. warns against sparking ‘never-ending’ series of requests

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on a plea filed by UPSC aspirants, whose last attempt to crack the civil services exam was dampened by pandemic restrictions last year, for another chance.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, the government said policy decides age and the number of attempts allowed to candidates.

Also read: How to prepare for the UPSC Prelims 2021

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju said the judiciary should intervene only if the government policy was “arbitrary, uninformed and capricious”.

Mr. Raju said relaxation in age or the number of attempts would trigger a never-ending cycle of requests for similar reliefs, with every candidate asking for an extra chance. The law officer argued that hardships during the pandemic were uniformly felt by all.

On the other hand, a battery of lawyers appearing for over 100 aspirants, including senior advocate Shyam Divan, argued at length about the “overwhelming circumstances of the pandemic which impacted society”. He said libraries and coaching centres were closed during the most of last year. Senior advocate P.S. Narasimha detailed how aspirants give it their all to prepare for the civil services exam. The restrictions due to the pandemic was outside the control of the students and had affected them badly.

The government had earlier, on the court’s insistence, proposed to give another chance to last-attempters who had taken the October 4, 2020 prelims, provided they had not overshot the age barrier.

On Monday, the Supreme Court had asked the government to not be “rigid” about giving another chance to age-barred UPSC aspirants too.

On February 5, the government side had said it was “agreeable” to give an “ex-gratia, one-time, restricted relaxation” to UPSC candidates who had appeared in the Civil Services Exam – 2020 as their “last permissible attempt”.

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