The Centre Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it is against granting one-time relaxation on age limit to UPSC civil service aspirants, including those who had exhausted their last attempt in 2020 exam amid the COVID-19 pandemic and would get one more chance this year provided they are not age barred, as it would be discriminatory to other candidates.
The Centre told this to a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar which reserved its verdict on a plea which had sought one more chance in the UPSC's civil services exam to those aspirants who could not appear in their last attempt in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the Centre, said that initially the government was not willing to concede the extra chance and it was later done at the suggestion of the bench.
"This is not the exam where you prepare at the last minutes. People prepare for years together," Raju told the bench, adding, "My first offer remains".
The Centre had on February 5 told the apex court that it was agreeable to give an extra chance as a one-time relaxation to those civil service aspirants, who had appeared in their last attempt in the 2020 exam and are otherwise not age-barred.
It, however, had said that no relaxation shall be granted for 2021 exam to those candidates who have not exhausted their permissible number of attempts or to those who are otherwise age-barred from appearing in 2021 exam as per the prescribed age limits of different categories, or to any other candidate for any other reason whatsoever.
The counsel appearing for the petitioners had Monday argued that there should be one-time relaxation on age limit for the aspirants.
On February 5, the Centre had filed a note in the apex court which said, Relaxation, only to the extent of providing one extra attempt for Civil Service Examination (CSE), specifically limited to CSE-2021, may be granted to only those candidates who appeared for CSE-2020 as their last permissible attempt and are otherwise not age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021.
This relaxation for the candidates and to the extent as prescribed above, shall be a one-time relaxation only and shall apply only for appearing in CSE-2021 and shall not be treated as a precedent, it had said.
As per the suggestion of this court, the Union of India is agreeable for the following ex-gratia, one-time, restricted relaxation to be granted to the prospective candidates, subject to the same being part of a consent order, disposing off the petition, the note had said.
On February 1, the Centre had told the top court that it cannot grant an extra chance to civil services aspirants who could not appear or prepare well for their last attempt in the UPSC civil service exam in 2020 due to the pandemic, while reiterating that it would amount to extending differential treatment to similarly placed candidates.
The Centre had earlier furnished a chart in the apex court giving details of relaxation given by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in civil services exams since its inception and had said that in 1979, 1992 and 2015 relaxations were given to the candidates due to change in patterns of examination.
The top court on September 30 last year had refused to postpone the UPSC civil services preliminary exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic and floods in several parts of the country.
However, it had directed the central government and the UPSC to consider granting an extra chance to candidates who have their last attempt in 2020, with corresponding extension of the upper age-limit.