Nepal | October 20, 2020

SC asks govt to let COVID patients take PSC exams

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The Supreme Court today ordered the Public Service Commission not to bar COVID-19 applicants from appearing in PSC examinations.

A single bench of Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla issued the interim order in response to a writ petition filed by Advocate Shailendra Prasad Ambedkar and human rights activist Praveen Kumar Yadav.

The apex court observed that if job applicants were barred from appearing in PSC exams, then their right to equality, right against discrimination and right to employment guaranteed by the constitution would be violated.

The court also observed that requiring examinees to declare that they were not infected with COV- ID-19 could lead to a situation where asymptomatic examinees might not declare their positive status due to fear of discrimination and stigma and such a situation could expose healthy examinees to the risk of coronavirus infection.

The apex court ordered the PSC to safely conduct PSC examinations keeping in mind the interests of all examinees and government employees who will be deployed in examination halls.

The court asked the PSC to make alternative arrangement for COV- ID-positive applicants so that they could safely take examinations. It added that while making alternative arrangements, examinees’ right to privacy should be respected.

The PSC had recently issued new guidelines barring COVID-19 applicants from appearing in PSC examinations. The apex court ordered the PSC not to execute the provision that barred COVID-19 applicants from appearing in PSC examination until the final hearing in the case.

The SC also issued a show cause notice to the PSC seeking a written reply within 15 days.

The petitioners have argued that the PSC’s decision to prohibit COV- ID patients from appearing in PSC exams would deprive them of their right to equality and right to employment guaranteed by the constitution.

They have also urged the court to direct the PSC to conduct the examination so that asymptomatic COVID patients could sit for exams in separate examination halls. They argued that if COVID patients were not allowed to take PSC exams this year, some might never be able to sit for the exams if they cross the age limit next year. The age limit for men to appear for PSC test is 35 years, women can take the test till they are 45 years old.

PSC Chairman Umesh Prasad Mainali said he respected the court order but his office would have to overcome challenges to implement the court order. “We had to seal four of our departments on the fourth floor today as our employees have contracted COVID. We do not know if we will be able to hold exams on the scheduled date,” he said. “If we allow COVID-19 patients to take PSC examinations, no school will provide their classrooms to us to conduct examinations. There is also the issue of human rights of our employees who could be exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19,” Mainali added.

He said he would hold a meeting with PSC staff to discuss the court order.

Mainali said his office was scheduled to conduct examinations for more than 400 posts of section officer immediately after Dashain.

Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi, advocates Pankaj Kumar Karna, Kesharmani Aryal and Santosh Bhandari had pleaded on behalf of petitioners.

A version of this article appears in print on October 16, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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