On Wednesday, 24th February 2021, the Supreme Court dismissed the pleas of aspirants who had filed a petition seeking an extra attempt to appear for the UPSC civil service exam. As a result, UPSC aspirants who have exhausted their last attempt to appear for the examination in October 2020 (as per the UPSC age limit), will not be given any extra chance this year.
In its detailed verdict, the Supreme Court called the petitioner’s claim on COVID-19 being the reason behind the disruption of studies a “lame excuse in taking an additional attempt to participate in the exam”.
Note: According to the set age bar for the UPSC exam, the candidates from the General category are allowed 6 attempts till the age of 32, OBC candidates get 9 attempts till the age of 35 and the SC/ST candidates get unlimited attempts till they turn 37.
Earlier, multitudes of aspirants had appealed for a one-time relaxation in the age limit to appear for UPSC 2021 citing COVID-19 as the reason behind their lack of preparation.
One of the petitioners had argued, “During COVID 19, everybody was given the choice of saving their attempt by leaving the exam in 2020. But last attempters like me had been given no other choice but to sit for the examination. It was really discouraging and sad when we had to give the UPSC examination during the pandemic.”
After today’s SC judgement, a petitioner stated, “I had high hopes from the Government but this verdict from the Supreme Court has changed the entire scenario. Now, other petitioners like me will be completely excluded from the last attempt.”
Justice Indu Malhotra led bench of #SupremeCourt to shortly deliver judgment on a plea to direct an extra attempt for UPSC prelims aspirants who appeared for exams in October, 2020. #UPSC pic.twitter.com/5FOmM3N8Jc
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) February 24, 2021
UPSC 2021 – Point of View of the Supreme Court
The bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Ajay Rastogi and Indu Malhotra dismissed the aspirants’ petition for a second shot at the civil service examination. They said, “The UPSC candidates who exhausted their last attempt in October 2020 will not be provided with another chance.” Adding to this statement, the Apex Court also explicitly cited the difficulties faced in preparations due to the pandemic.
The lawyers, on behalf of the aggrieved party (petitioners/ aspirants), had put forward multiple factors and the crisis faced by the aspirants due to COVID-19.
While Justice AM Rastogi appreciated the efforts of the lawyers, he also stated, “The efforts of all the candidates have been uniformly affected due to COVID 19. However, if an extra chance is given to last-attempt candidates, there is a high chance that other candidates will demand the same reception. This will lead to an endless cycle and more students will be affected by the aftermath.”
UPSC 2021 – What Happened Earlier?
On 5th February 2021, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it was agreeable to provide a “one-time, restricted relaxation to prospective candidates” who had given their last attempt at the UPSC exam in October 2020. This provision, however, was only supposed to be given to those aspirants who had not exceeded the age bar.
Later, on 9th February 2021, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it is not ready to grant any age relaxation to the UPSC IAS candidates who have exhausted their last attempt in the year 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They stated the move to be ‘discriminatory to other candidates’.