Saturday 31 October 2020

UPSC affidavit in SC: Rs 50 crore at stake if civil services exam deferred

Over 1.058 million candidates have applied for the UPSC examination, of which 0.687 million candidates (nearly 65%) have downloaded the e-Admit card

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The government’s top recruitment body—Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)—has already incurred expenses of over Rs 50 crore for conducting the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination 2020 scheduled for 4 October, and any further delay would result in a huge loss to the public exchequer, an affidavit filed by the Commission in the Supreme Court on 29 September read.

The affidavit comes ahead of a crucial hearing by the court on a PIL moved by 20 civil service aspirants who want the examination to be postponed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and floods in several parts of the country. Earlier, the UPSC said it was “impossible” to defer the examination further.

“The Commission has incurred an expense of Rs 50.39 crore which includes committed liabilities of around Rs 16.09 crore in order to facilitate logistical preparation for conduct of the examination and postponement of the examination would cause a huge loss to the public exchequer,” stated the affidavit. Several exams conducted by the Commission have already been postponed, but the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (CSP) 2020 was crucial to fill up vacant posts in government services, the Commission stated.

The Commission, explaining why they were opposing the delay, said that 4 October was the “maximum extent” of delay, as any further delay would disturb the schedule of Civil Services (Main) Examination and a host of other recruitment tests lined up this year.

“Any disruption at any stage has the potential of upsetting the entire (examination) cycle not only for once but likely to have a cascading effect in future as well,” read the affidavit filed by UPSC’s Joint Secretary (Examination) Raj Kumar. The affidavit pointed out that the Civil Services (Main) Examination as well as the second stage of other recruitment examinations, including interviews, are to be held this year. Even the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination 2021 fixed for 27 June, 2021 would suffer if the 4 October date is shifted, the Commission added.

Over 1.058 million candidates have applied for the examination, of which 0.687 million candidates (nearly 65%) have downloaded the e-Admit card as on 28 September. The examination will be held at 2,569 venues across 72 exam centres. All preparatory measures have been taken and the examination material, attendance sheets, list of invigilators and supervisors has already been dispatched to the respective exam venues, the affidavit stated. The Cabinet Secretary as well as UPSC Secretary have instructed all Chief Secretaries to provide transport for candidates on 3 and 4 October so they can give the examination without any hassle. Jammers have been installed at all examination centres, UPSC stated.

CSP-2020 was earlier scheduled for 31 May. On 5 June, the Commission announced 4 October as the new date for the examination, giving candidates four extra months to prepare. According to UPSC, about 67,717 candidates have since applied for a change of exam venue. But according to the Commission, based on data from previous years, only 50% of those who apply actually turn up. In 2019, of 1.135 million who applied, 0.565 million appeared. In 2018, 1.041 million applied while only 0.493 million turned up for the test.

A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar will consider UPSC’s affidavit and take a call on the examination. The Commission has already issued guidelines for COVID-19 and believes that the candidates, aged 21 and above, will be responsible, take due precautions and avoiding spreading the infection.

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