This year, exams of final year UG & PG courses students (hereinafter as final year students) got delayed due to extraordinary situation arising out of COVID-19 Pandemic, resulting into a prolong delay of academic sessions by about 5-6 months.
Despite this prolong delay of about 5-6 months, any further delay in either declaration of results or in issuing of provisional degrees, mark-sheets, certificates, migration, character, or any other related academic documents (hereinafter as degree) are undesirable which may cause irreparable damage to students.
Thus, now, final year students must be provided digital degree by the academic institutions due to following grounds, these are:-
1. The Central Government in exercise of the powers conferred by sub section (1) of section 87 and clause (wa) of sub-section (2) of section 87 read with section 6A and section 67C of the Information Technology Act, 2000 enacted the Information Technology (Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries providing Digital Locker Facilities) Rules 2016.
2. Rule 9A of the supra (Digilocker) Rules 2016 says that the issuing certificates/documents in Digital Locker System and accepting certificates/documents shared from Digital Locker Account are at par with Physical Documents. Thus, the digital degree via Digilocker is par with the physical degree.
3. The then Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), now the Ministry of Education, vide its letter no. F.No 8-21/2019.U.policy dated 18th March 2020 has directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to be authorised to implement NAD, which is a 24*7 online storehouse of academic awards (degrees, diplomas, certificates, mark-sheets etc.,) as a permanent scheme, in co-operation with Digilocker. It was also decided that NAD to be implemented as a permanent scheme without levy of any user charges, by Digilocker through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) as a single entity.
4. In June 2020, UGC in response of MHRD’s direction, directed to the Vice-chancellor of all Universities to implement the NAD and to upload the digital degree. UGC in June 2020 via D.O.NO.F.1-46/2020(NAD/Digilocker) has categorically recommended to all the academic institutions that since now onwards, all Academic Institutions have to upload data of academic awards of their institutions with Digilocker.
5. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court on 7th September 2020, in the case of Dhritiman Ray v. University of Delhi, [W.P.(C) 3945/2020] has directed University of Delhi to issue digital degree, certificates, mark-sheets, etc. to students on an urgent basis, in any case not more than 7 days.
6. Since the launch of NAD, many academic institutions including various Central Universities, State Universities, Private Universities, Central Higher Educational Institutions, School Boards, etc., are uploading their academic awards on NAD, as confirmed by UGC itself. CBSE has uploaded the digital academic documents of Class X & XII on Digilocker. State Boards of Maharashtra, UP, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Rajashan, Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Goa, Assam, etc have uploaded documents digitally on Digilocker. Further, University of Delhi, NIOS, CISCE, NIELIT, ICSI, AIIMS Rishikesh, Andaman Law College, Biju Patnaik University of Technology, Chitkara University, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Institute of Technology, Gauhati University, J.N.R. Mahavidyalaya (Port Blair), etc have uploaded digital degrees. But unfortunately many universities did not implement this till date, especially in regards to final year students, whose academic life is affecting.
7. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court on 12th October 2020, in the case of Prateek Sharma v. Union of India, [W.P.(C) 3199/2020] has directed University of Delhi to issue digital degree, certificates, mark-sheets, etc., without compelling students to physically present in the university premises. The Hon’ble Court has directed that the students will get their digital degree, certificates, mark-sheet, etc without any condition precedent to physical presence in the university campus.
8. Section 4 of the Information Technology Act of 2000, categorically says that,
where any law provides that information or any other matter shall be in writing or in the typewritten or printed form, then, notwithstanding anything contained in such law, such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such information or matter is rendered or made available in an electronic form. Thus, IT Act also confirms that if any university provide degree in electronic form then it is totally valid.
9. As per section 5 of IT Act,
where any law provides that information or any other matter shall be authenticated by affixing the signature or any document shall be signed or bear the signature of any person, then, notwithstanding anything contained in such law, such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied, if such information or matter is authenticated by means of electronic signature affixed in such manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government. Thus, electronic signature over a degree is also valid.
10. As per section 6 of IT Act,
where any law provides for— (a) the filing of any form, application or any other document with any office, authority, body or agency owned or controlled by the appropriate Government in a particular manner; (b) the issue or grant of any licence, permit, sanction or approval by whatever name called in a particular manner; (c) the receipt or payment of money in a particular manner, then, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such filing, issue, grant, receipt or payment, as the case may be, is effected by means of such electronic form as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government.
11. Thus, the IT Act promotes towards digital platform as an alternative to paper. The electronic documents, signatures, etc are now recognised and also being promoted by this Act.
12. The use of digital/electronic platforms shall save paper. Every 3000 sheets of paper cost us a tree. Our paper consumption is a critical reason for our vanishing forests. The world has already lost 80% of its old-growth forests. Remaining forests are in the danger of destruction. So, we should try to save very single sheet of paper in order to protect our environment. If educational institutions will provide digital degree then millions of paper will be saved, every year.
13. To cope with the situation arising out of COVID-19 Pandemic, it is not feasible to compel students to travel in public, especially when restricted lockdown is prevailing in various parts of India, university are not opened for students and when canteens, mess, hostel, etc., are closed and especially when digital/electronic mode is available.
Till date, any educational institutions which have neither declared result nor issued degree, if provide digital degree to final year students (without any further delay), it will save their future and will mitigate the following problem:-
a. Final year students of Post Graduate (PG) courses are not able to take admission in M.phil/P.hD, they can mitigate this problem with digital degree quickly and effectively.
b. Final year students of Under Graduate (UG) courses are not able to take admission in Master Courses, either in India or in Foreign, as various educational institutions at both these places are demanding degree as a condition precedent to take admission, they can mitigate this problem with digital degree quickly and effectively.
c. Final year students of various professional courses are not in a position to start their respective profession, they can mitigate this problem with digital degree quickly and effectively.
d. Various final students are not able to apply in several public employment sector or private sector jobs, etc., they can mitigate this problem with digital degree quickly and effectively.
e. Thus, in sum and substance the plight of final year students can be mitigated with digital degree very effectively during this pandemic.
Final Year Law Student
University:- Cenral University of South Bihar, Gaya
Address:- C/o- Gopal Singh, Near Phulwaria Police Station, At Post- Barauni, Village- Shokhara 02, Ward-8, District-Begusarai, Bihar-851112.