UPSC last bid: Centre says can’t relax age rule, SC reserves verdict

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Hyderabad: Students appear for the UPSC civil services preliminary examinations amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Hyderabad on Oct 4, 2020.
Hyderabad: Students appear for the UPSC civil services preliminary examinations amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Hyderabad on Oct 4, 2020.

The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it is not in favour of one-time relaxation to UPSC exam aspirants who are age-barred, as it will be discriminatory to other candidates.

Scores of petitioners, who had exhausted their attempt in October 2020 exam amid Covid-19, had moved the top court urging it to grant them an extra chance.

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that initially the government was not willing to give an extra chance, but it mellowed its stand after a suggestion from the bench.

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court reserved its verdict on a plea seeking an extra chance for UPSC aspirants, who exhausted all attempts last October, against the backdrop of mental and physical trauma due to the ongoing pandemic.

“During this pandemic, while everyone had a choice to save their attempt by leaving the exam in 2020, while taking care of their health, the last attempters were given no choice at all and had to sit for the exam, despite the lack of opportunity to prepare,” the petitioners have argued.

Raju stressed that the government is not willing to dilute its stand on age-barred candidates, and insisted that these are policy matters beyond purview of the court. “This is not the exam where you prepare at the last minute. People prepare for years together,” he submitted.

Agreeing to the final attempt, the Centre had said: “Relaxation, only to the extent of providing one extra attempt for Civil Service Examination (CSE), specifically limited to CSE-2021, may be granted to only those candidates who appeared for CSE-2020 as their last permissible attempt and are otherwise not age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021.”

The top court, however, pressed that the government should consider giving age-relaxation as a one-time measure. The Centre had told the top court that no relaxation can be granted for CSE-2021 to those candidates who have not exhausted their permissible number of attempts or to those candidates who are otherwise age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021 as per the prescribed age limits of different categories, or to any other candidate for any other reason whatsoever.

Senior advocates appearing for petitioners had argued if anyone which requires consideration, it is the age barred group. On Monday, senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for a petitioner, argued that if all the 2,236 candidates, had lost their last chance last year, are age-barred, and if this is not relaxed, all SC/ST candidates, and handicapped candidates would be excluded and for this category of candidates, there is no limit in number of attempts.

Similarly, senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing some petitioners, also pressed upon the issue of age bar relaxation.

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