A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna said it was bound by its three-judge bench judgment passed in Rachna vs Union of India last year.
“The petitioners have made an unsuccessful attempt of persuading us to take a view that the issue raised in the present writ petitions is not covered by the decision of three judge Bench of this Court dated February 24, 2021 in Rachna & Ors vs Union of India & Anr…,” the bench said in its order.
According to the writ petitioners, they form a separate class – as they were forced not to appear in the examination on the given dates on account of directions issued by the local authorities under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, including the general directions regarding isolation of Covid patients and family members of Covid patients. The petitioners contended that the situation was one of forced default, for which they cannot be compared with candidates who did not appear in the examination by choice.
The bench said: “Although, we may have full sympathy with writ petitioners and similarly placed students, for the difficult situation and the resultant consequences they may suffer, but the issues raised by them, in our opinion, are covered by the decision of this Court in Rachna & Ors. (supra).”
It noted that the only indulgence that can be shown to the petitioners, including the applicants, is to allow them to make representation to the appropriate authority, who may consider all aspects of the matter and take a lenient view in the light of the prevailing situation at the relevant time.
“We are not expressing any opinion either way with regard to the feasibility of resolution of the issues so raised. All aspects in that regard are left open,” said the bench, disposing of the petitions.
It clarified that any orders or directions in this case would mean more litigation and “chaos”, and observed the court can only strike down a policy if there is manifest unreasonableness.
“Instead of appealing to us, why not appeal to the authority that made the policy?”
Counsel, appearing for some of the petitioners, argued the judgment in the Rachna case dealt with only those candidates who had given the examination in 2020, and did not cover those who could not appear in the exam due to Covid-related difficulties and became age-barred for the 2021 exam.