They should not be age-barred, govt. tells Supreme Court.
The Union government on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it is “agreeable” to give the UPSC aspirants, who exhausted their chance in the last October 4 preliminary exam but are not age-barred, another crack at the exam this year.
The government said the leeway was an “ex-gratia, one-time, restricted relaxation” to those who appeared in the Civil Services Exam – 2020 as their “last permissible attempt”.
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar in a virtual court hearing, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju read out from a note, which said that the candidates given the leeway should not be age-barred.
The note noted that the candidates whose number of attempts had not exhausted cannot avail of this one-time relaxation.
The Bench asked the government to circulate the note.
“We do not have copy of this note… You have made a very involved statement. There are some conditions in it too,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Mr. Raju.
“The condition is only age-related,” Mr. Raju responded.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, for some aspirants, sought time to read the note and see if a consensus could be arrived at on the issue.
“They [aspirants’ side] must examine it [note],” Justice Khanwilkar said.
The court then scheduled the case for Monday.
A virtual U-turn
The government’s stand on Friday marks a virtual U-turn from its earlier position.
On January 22, the government refused to give the aspirants, including “last-attempters”, another crack at the exams. An affidavit filed by it in the court a month ago argued that any additional attempt or relaxation in age for some candidates would amount to extending differential treatment. It would lead to an “un-leveling of the playing field”.
The aspirants who moved the court had pleaded for another chance, saying their exam preparations for and performance in the October 4 exam floundered due to the “innumerable, inevitable circumstances suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Until January 22, the government had stalled a clear response to their plea by merely saying their request was under “active consideration”.
Previous hearings saw the court repeatedly pressing the government to give a one-time concession to the aspirants whose last attempt at the exam suffered due to the pandemic. Justice Khanwilkar had even highlighted how rules were relaxed in 1992 and 2015 due to a pattern change in the examination.
Government figures submitted in the court show that over 3,300 candidates would benefit from the one-time relaxation. To be exact, official statistics reveal that 3,863 candidates made their last attempt on October 4, and of this, 555 cleared the exam. The remaining 3,308 would get the benefit of extra chance.
A total of 4,86,952 candidates appeared for the October 4 exam.