Civil services aspirants, whose final attempt at the elite exams in 2020 was affected by the pandemic, have approached the Supreme Court again for a chance this year, citing the “most exceptional circumstances”.
Two categories of UPSC aspirants have moved the apex court separately. The first are candidates who were unable to take their final attempt on October 4, 2020 due to the COVID-19 situation and lockdown. “The exam was scheduled to happen on October 4, 2020. However, on the day of exam they were directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, on account of the restrictive protocols and guidelines given by the State, which included mandatory quarantine, etc., the petitioners were unable to appear in the exam and take their last attempt,” writ petitions filed by these aspirants — led by Lavanya and represented by advocate Samar Vijay Singh and Abhishek Anand Sinha said.
A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, on April 19, had asked these petitioners to serve an advance copy of their pleas to the government side through the central agency of the apex court.
The second group are aspirants who managed to take the exam on October 4. In an intervention application, they submitted that their preparation and final attempt at the exam in 2020 was severely affected by the pandemic. The four applicants led by Dr. Vishnu Shivaji Bulbule, a medical doctor based in Pune, said they had taken the civil services exam even as they worked in the frontlines of the pandemic as ‘Corona warriors’.
The applicants sought parity with others who had not attempted the exam last year. They said they took the exam in a peculiar situation while suffering from the mental and physical trauma and pain caused by what they saw around them. Their attempt was also crippled by the lack of study material, infrastructure and loss of income.
The applicants said while most aspirants had the luxury of another chance at the civil services exam and could afford to miss the 2020 one, last attempters like them, who had dreamed of joining the services to serve the country, were compelled to risk their health during the pandemic and take the exam on October 4.
They have sought an “extra attempt in addition to their permissible attempts, so as to enable them to appear in the Civil Services Examination (CSE) for the year 2021-2022”.
Lavanya and her co-petitioners highlighted how the Supreme Court in an order on September 30 last year had asked the government to consider giving the last attempters of 2020, who would be age-barred in 2021, a one-time age relaxation for appearing in CSE-2021. They said the government and UPSC had not taken the suggestion favourably. “The respondents vide the CSE Rules-2021 and an examination notice, both dated March 4, 2021, chose not to relax the age eligibility criterion for the examination this year,” Lavanya’s petition said.
This is the second time UPSC aspirants, who were final attempters last year, have moved the apex court. In February this year, after months of roller-coaster hearings, the apex court had finally declined their pleas for another chance to take the civil services exam.
The government had objected, saying any relaxation in age or the number of attempts would trigger a never-ending cycle of requests for similar reliefs, with every candidate asking for another chance.