Coming to the aid of medical students affected by the delay in getting degree certificates in view of convocations not being held owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the High Court of Karnataka has directed the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) to immediately give a provisional degree certificate to an MBBS student with a specific note that it is “on a par with the award of degree concerned, for all practical purposes”.

The court also expressed hope that the RGUHS authorities, when so requested by students/alumni, would address appropriate communication to other universities/colleges/employers for easing the difficulty or doubt, pending the award of degrees in the ensuing convocation ceremonies. It observed that such graceful acts, if carried out timely, would add to the stature and grandeur of the university.

Justice Krishna S. Dixit passed the order while allowing a petition filed by Lanson Brijesh Colaco of Mangaluru, who had complained about the delay in award of MBBS degree by RGUHS.

“Some viable alternative has to be devised by the universities in their accumulated experience and wisdom for mitigating the likely hardship/difficulty their students/alumni are put to, in circumstances like the present COVID-19 pandemic that result in delays in holding the ceremonial convocation,” the court observed.

Though it was contended on behalf of RGUHS that the university’s statute does not authorise award of degree sans holding convocation, the court said that “students cannot be asked to wait in militant silence for an indefinite period of time” as that would have many repercussions, such as a time bar on admission to any course, non-compliance with conditions of recruitment, and age bar for employment, etc.

During the hearing, the counsel for the university told the court that RGUHS can consider including a note or appending an annexure to the provisional degree certificate indicating that it has to be treated on a par with award of degree.

“This fair stand of the university will ease the difficulty faced by students, like the petitioner, who at times have to indefinitely await the convocation ceremony,” the court observed.

Cost of delay

While giving two weeks for the university to issue a provisional certificate to the petitioner with the specific note that it was on a par with the award of degree, the court said that the university would have to pay a cost of ₹5,000 per week to the petitioner for a delay beyond the two weeks and recover such costs from the officials concerned.