The court orders NAEC to reschedule the exam for Seventh Day Adventists
By its interim decision of 16 July, the Chamber of Administrative Cases of the Tbilisi City Court ordered the LEPL National Assessment and Examinations Center (NAEC) to reschedule the English language exam to 17 July or 19 July for two university applicants who cannot sit the exam on Saturday (18 July) because of their religious belief.
Let us recall that on 30 June 2020, two university applicants who are members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, appealed to the NAEC to reschedule their exam on 18 June as they cannot sit it on Saturday because of their religious belief. The NAEC unjustifiably denied the request of the applicants, thereby violating the rights of the applicants to freedom of religion, education and equality.
Consequently, the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI), which defends the interests of these two university applicants, submitted an injunction application to the Tbilisi City Court on 15 July 2020. The application requested the Court to instruct the NAEC to reschedule the united national exam to 17 or 19 July or any other day save Saturday. It is worth to note that the schedule of exams, approved under the decree of the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, sets three different dates for the English language exam, namely 17, 18 and 19 July.
The Court has emphasized the importance of universal human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia, noting that a public institution must not unduly intrude on the protected right. The Court deliberated on the importance of freedom of religion or belief and the right to education.
The Court noted that scheduling exams on Saturday for university applicants may serve a legitimate aim and that the schedule of united national exams is drawn up in accordance with the rule established under the law. However, the Court observed that the intrusion by the state on the rights of the applicants to belief, religion and education, even if it serves a legitimate aim, is unjustified because the limitation must be necessary and proportional to the restriction. Consequently, a measure applied by the NAEC restricts the rights of the applicants to belief, religion and education.
Apart from Saturday, the English language exam is conducted on Friday and Sunday (17 and 19 July). Therefore, the Court believes that there is a possibility to reschedule the date of exam for the applicants without additional costs incurred by the state and that it is unacceptable to intrude on the rights of the applicants to belief, religion and education.
With the interim order, the Court instructed the National Assessment and Examinations Center to reschedule the English language exam of university applicants from 18 July to 17 or 19 July and to immediately enforce the injunction. Even in case of appeal by NAEC, this will not stop the enforcement of this interim order of the Court. The Court order was officially handed over to the National Assessment and Examinations Center on 17 July.
Updated information: Based on the Court's decision NAEC rescheduled the exam for both applicants on 19 July.
TDI provides legal aid and strategic litigation in the frame of the project “combating discrimination on religious, ethnic and racial grounds through strategic litigation” with the support of East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) project Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia (PROLoG) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)