New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 30) declined to postpone UPSC Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination 2020, scheduled for October 4, due to COVID-19 pandemic and floods in several parts of the country. The top court also refused to consider the plea for clubbing of this year's exam with that of 2021 saying "this will have a cascading effect".

An apex court bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari asked the Central government to consider granting one more chance to those aspirants who may not appear in their last attempt for the exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The top court said that it has impressed upon ASG SV Raju, appearing for the Centre, to explore the possibility of giving one more opportunity to such students who fail to take up the exam in their last attempt.

The plea sought postponement of the Civil Services Exams for two to three months so that the flood/ incessant rains recede and the COVID-19 curve flattens.

The bench said that as some public exams have recently been conducted successfully by the authorities by observing proper protocols, it is possible to conduct the UPSC preliminary examinations. It further said that the grievance of lack of transport facility at 72 examination centres and sub-centres have not been substantiated by the petitioners.

It said that a formal decision can be taken by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) expeditiously. On allowing suspected COVID-19 aspirants to take up their exams, the bench said that it is not possible to enter into this arena as a matter of fact medical SoP required that a patient is needed to be quarantined as it may result in the exposure of other candidates.

The top court noted that UPSC has made separate arrangements for students suffering from cough and cold.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) opposed the plea saying all necessary precautions have been taken and adequate arrangements have been made for holding the exam.

Earlier on September 28, the top court had asked the UPSC to apprise it about the "logistical arrangements" made for conducting civil services preliminary exams on October 4 in view of rising cases of COVID-19 and floods in various parts of the country.

According to the plea, this 7-hour offline exam will be taken by approximately six lakh aspirants at test centres in 72 cities. It added that the Civil Services Exam, being a recruitment examination, is altogether different from an academic examination and in the event of its postponement; there would not be any question of delay or loss of any academic session.

The plea said that due to non-availability of exam centres in their home towns, many aspirants are facing 'unimaginable' hardship due to non-availability of or unsafe health conditions in, the PG accommodation/ hostels/ hotels etc., where they are forced to stay with their family members, once they are travelling to an outstation Examination Centre.

It may be noted that Indian Civil Service Exam (UPSC IAS exam / UPSC Civil services) is conducted in three stages:

1. Civil Services Exam (Preliminary)  – Objective Type
2. Civil Services Exam (Main) – Descriptive Type
3. Personality Test / Interview

The process of the UPSC civil services examination begins from the notification of the preliminary examination to the declaration of the final results that takes roughly a year. The selected candidates are recruited and trained for various Central government services and then allotted different state cadres, as per their preference and ranking.

For UPSC Civil Services Exam 2020, the notification was published on February 12th, 2020.