Petitions were filed by students in each of the three high courts against the CAIE’s decision and the government’s approval for holding physical exams in Pakistan
The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Lahore High Court (LHC) and Sindh High Court (SHC) rejected on Friday separate petitions challenging the physical presence of students in O and A levels exams and seeking a switch to school-assessed grades.
The petitions were filed by students in each of the three high courts against the CAIE’s decision and the government’s approval for holding physical exams in Pakistan.
During the hearing in the IHC on Friday, Chief Justice Athar Minallah rejected the petition after hearing arguments from both sides. “Can’t issue any directive, [let’s] send your request to the NCOC (National Command and Control Centre),” he said, adding that it was not the courts’ job to “interfere” in the country’s policy matters before moving to dismiss the petition.
Justice Minallah said that to date, the court had not interfered in any policy decisions of the NCOC related to matters regarding the coronavirus. “In any case, the Government of Pakistan cannot issue any directive to Cambridge [Assessment International Education],” he added
He said that the government only provided services related to the CAIE examinations.
“Do you want the government to stop them from taking exams?” the court inquired from the petitioner’s lawyer to which he responded that he was not asking for anything in the petition which was not already a part of CAIE policy.
He said that the petition was not against the CAIE, adding that the board had provided two options. “Saudi Arabia, Thailand [and] India have adopted the option of online examinations instead of physical,” he said.
The chief justice said that there were nine petitioners in the petition and it was possible that the rest of the students wanted to give physical examinations. “Nine petitioners cannot be representatives of thousands of students,” said Justice Minallah.
“Do the children not want to give exams? What kind of students [are these] who don’t want to give exams,” he said.
In the short order issued by the IHC, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, it said that the decision for what mode should be adopted to assess O and A level courses was a “policy matter”.
“Since the grievance is in the context of the crisis of Covid-19, therefore, the competent forum to consider and formulate the policy […] falls within the domain of respondent no. 3 i.e. NCOC,” said the order.
“This court has already held that the decisions of the NCOC are binding and not justiciable by a judicial forum,” it added, further stating that since the issue raised by the petitioners related to the government’s policy in tackling the Covid-19 crisis, therefore, the court “is not the competent forum nor has the expertise to direct the respondents regarding what mode should be adopted relating to assessment of students”.
The order said the petitioners would be at “liberty to file a representation” before the NCOC and it would then be expected to take decisions it deemed appropriate in the circumstances.
Lahore High Court:
Justice Jawad Hassan of the LHC also dismissed a similar petition filed by students.
The court order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said that the petitioners could not “point out any sort of discrimination” since the respondents — which included the British Council and CAIE — were undertaking examinations not just in Pakistan but in other parts of the world as well.
It added that the Punjab government had also issued the examination schedule within the province and no exemption was given to other students in the private and public sector, therefore, “even from analogical perspective, the prayer of the petitioners cannot find any favourable support”.