‘Let us not be in denial’: Supreme Court says if sanctity of NEET-UG exam is lost, re-test has to be ordered

We are dealing with the lives and careers of 23 lakh students said the Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jul 08, 2024 | 4:59 PM Updated Jul 08, 2024 | 5:03 PM

Supreme Court says if sanctity of NEET-UG exam is lost, re-test has to be ordered

The Supreme Court of India stated on Monday, 8 July that if the sanctity of the medical entrance exam NEET-UG 2024 is “lost” and if the leak of its question paper has been propagated through social media, then a re-test must be ordered.

“It is clear that the NEET-UG question paper was leaked. We are dealing with the lives and careers of 23 lakh students,” said a bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud.

The bench also noted that if the question paper leak had occurred through Telegram, WhatsApp, and other electronic modes of communication, it “spread like wildfire.”

“One thing is clear: the leak of the question paper has taken place,” said the apex court bench, which included Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

In a set of directions, the Supreme Court instructed the CBI to submit a report indicating the status of the investigation. The Supreme Court also directed the NTA to inform it when the leak of the question paper first occurred and to provide details about the time gap between the occurrence of the leak and the conduct of the exam on 5 May.

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Let us not be in self-denial

“If the sanctity of the exam is lost, then a re-test has to be ordered. If we are unable to identify those who are guilty, then a re-test has to be ordered,” the bench observed.

“Let us not be in self-denial about what happened,” the apex court stated. The bench asked “Assuming that the government does not cancel the exam, what will it do to identify the beneficiaries of the question paper leak?”

The apex court was hearing more than 30 pleas related to the controversy-ridden NEET-UG 2024, including those alleging irregularities and malpractices in the 5 May test and seeking a direction to conduct it afresh.

“There is no question that the leak of the question paper has taken place. We are determining the extent of the leak,” the bench observed.

Taking note of certain “red flags” like 67 candidates scoring 720 out of 720, the bench added, “In previous years, the proportion was very low.”

The top court said it wanted to know how many people benefited from the question paper leak and what actions were taken against them by the Centre.”Results of how many wrongdoers have been withheld, and we want to know the geographical distribution of such beneficiaries,” it asked.

The bench is also hearing a separate plea from over 50 successful Gujarat-based NEET-UG candidates, seeking to restrain the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) from canceling the controversy-ridden exam.

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What has happened so far?

The lawyers representing a petitioner began their submissions, arguing for the cancellation of the exam on grounds such as paper leaks, OMR sheet manipulation, impersonation, and cheating.

The Centre and the NTA, which conducts the NEET-UG exam, recently informed the apex court through affidavits that scrapping the exam would be “counterproductive” and “seriously jeopardise” lakhs of honest candidates in the absence of any proof of a large-scale breach of confidentiality.

The NTA and the Union Education Ministry have been at the center of media debates and protests by students and political parties over alleged large-scale malpractices ranging from question paper leaks to impersonation in the test held on 5 May.

The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG) is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH, and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country. Allegations of irregularities, including paper leaks, have led to protests in several cities and sparring between rival political parties.

On 13 June, the Centre and the NTA told the court that they had canceled the grace marks awarded to 1,563 candidates. These candidates were given the option to either take a re-test or forgo the compensatory marks awarded for the loss of time.

The NTA published the revised rank list on 1 July after issuing the results of the re-test held on 23 June. A total of 67 students had scored a perfect 720 with grace marks, an unprecedented number in the NTA’s history, with six from a Haryana center figuring in the list, raising suspicions about irregularities in the examination.

It has been alleged that grace marks contributed to the 67 students sharing the top rank. The number of candidates sharing the top rank in the NEET-UG was reduced to 61 from 67 as the NTA announced the revised results on 1 July.

(Edited by Neena with inputs from PTI and Sumit Jha)

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