New Delhi, Sep 17 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday allowed the Kerala government to hold physical exams for Class 11 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed satisfaction over the steps being taken by it to ensure that no untoward situation is faced by students.

The top court said holistic approach has to be taken in the matter and the authorities concerned are conscious of their duties.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar dismissed an appeal filed by advocate Rasoolshan A, challenging the Kerala High Court order refusing to interfere with the state government's decision to hold offline exams.

The apex court said a detailed affidavit has been filed by the state and it is taking all measures related to the coronavirus protocol.

"We are convinced by the explanation offered by the state and trust authorities will take all precautions and necessary steps so that no untoward situation is faced by students who are of tender age and appearing for the proposed examination. Dismissed," it said.

The apex court said it had intervened on the earlier occasion as there was a possibility of a third wave of corona by September.

"Third wave is not in offing immediately," it added.

Advocate Prashant Padmanabhan, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the state government's affidavit does not spell out satisfactory reasons and the questions put forth by the apex court.

Padmanabhan said the top court had asked the state's counsel if the decision was taken after taking into account increase in COVID cases in Kerala but the affidavit did not answer that or whether experts have been consulted on the issue.

The bench, however, said the Kerala government has given convincing explanations.

The Kerala government in an affidavit had told the top court that online examinations will be a disadvantage for students with no access to laptops and mobile phones.

The conduct of examinations through online mode will prejudice a large number of students who have no access to laptops, desktops or mobile phones, it said, adding that students from the lower strata of society depend on mobile phones or tablets for attending online classes.

"In many areas, internet connection or mobile data are not available. These students will never be able to write online examinations," the state government had told the court.

The apex court had on September 3 stayed for a week Kerala government's decision to conduct offline exams for Class XI commencing from September 6 amid the rising cases of COVID saying "there is an alarming situation in the state".

The top court had observed that "cases in Kerala are about 70 per cent of the country and children of this age cannot be exposed to this risk".

Rasoolshan in his plea had argued that compelling minor unvaccinated students of class XI to take part in a public examination amid the possible third wave of corona pandemic in Kerala is "unjust, unfair and unreasonable".

The Kerala High Court on August 27 had observed that conducting examination was a matter of government policy and no interference was warranted.

"I find it difficult to appreciate the contention of the petitioners that the decision to conduct the exams was taken by the respondents without much deliberation and without any concern for the health of the students." the single judge had said.

The apex court bench passed the order on an appeal filed by advocate Rasoolshan A challenging a decision of the High Court refusing to interfere with the decision to hold offline exams.

Rasoolshan in his appeal before the top court submitted that the State of Kerala has decided to conduct the offline examination of class XI students in the State Board despite the CBSE/ICSE and all the states (except Kerala wherein class XII examinations were held earlier) cancelling the physical examination for class XII.

"The decision to conduct the offline examination during which was earlier scheduled to be from September 6-10 now changed to September 6-27 is unmindful of the severe pandemic situation prevailing in the country, of which Kerala is most severely affected. The Test Positivity Rate (TPR) of COVID-19 in Kerala is above 15 per cent which is very high," the plea said.

The appeal stated that the class XI students of Kerala State Board have in any case appeared in the model examination in online mode and no purpose would be achieved by having one more examination in offline mode. The marks scored by students can be taken into consideration , if the same is required for any purposes, it added.