Class XI admissions: HC reserves verdict on plea challenging CET

The HC inquired with the state government about consequences in case the plea was allowed and whether the centralised admission process (CAP) will be held online.

The Bombay High Court on Friday reserved its verdict on a plea seeking quashing of the May 28 order of the Maharashtra government on holding a common entrance test (CET) for students of all educational boards for admissions to Class XI or first-year junior colleges based on the syllabus of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education.

The court is likely to pass the order on August 10.

The HC inquired with the state government about consequences in case the plea was allowed and whether the centralised admission process (CAP) will be held online. It also sought to know if CET was held on August 21 as scheduled, how will the state ensure that over 10 lakh students from across boards sit for the offline exam by following Covid-19 protocols.

A division bench of Justice R D Dhanuka and R I Chagla was hearing a writ petition filed by Ananya Patki, a student of Mumbai’s IES Orion School — affiliated to CICSE — describing as discriminatory the May 28 notification, which had also stated that those unwilling to appear for the CET would be admitted based on the aggregate of their Class X marks.

Advocate Yogesh Patki, the petitioner’s father, told HC that the decision was taken in a “haphazard manner” and the exam date was conveyed on “short notice” on July 19. He added that this violated articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and would cause problems as lakhs of non-vaccinated students in the 15-16 age group would have to appear for offline exams.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing Maharashtra government, said that the state was competent to issue the CET notification, which is “optional” and will be conducted by following all Covid-19 protocols.

He added that even if CET is conducted on August 21, Class XI admissions will continue till October and the academic year will commence from November. “While CET is to determine merit and CAP is to determine choice, if a student wants to get into a preferred college, he or she must compete with others,” he said.

Kumbhakoni pointed out that students of SSC or CBSE have not approached the court and their “larger interest” should also be considered.

The court told the government that students across boards, including the state board, were given marks “liberally” by schools. “The results show that marks of other boards and your boards are not much different,” it added.

To this, Kumbhakoni said that as “their (students) merit has not been assessed on a common platform”, the CET was required in an emergent “peculiar and volatile” pandemic situation.

On August 4, the state had told HC that it was considering an “inclusive” evaluation method by having a common question paper comprising questions based on the question banks from all boards.

On Friday, maintaining that CBSE was not equipped to provide questions to the state board, its counsel asked the government to consider continuing with the existing manner of evaluation based on Class X marks and delay holding CET by a year. The other boards also showed reluctance to submit a question bank as proposed.

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