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  India   All India  08 Jul 2024  NEET-UG retest if sanctity of exam lost, says SC

NEET-UG retest if sanctity of exam lost, says SC

THE ASIAN AGE. | RAKESH K. SINGH
Published : Jul 8, 2024, 11:52 pm IST
Updated : Jul 8, 2024, 11:52 pm IST

Seeks info from NTA on timing, duration of leak

The bench emphasised that the extent of the question paper leak and the beneficiaries across geographical boundaries must be ascertained before the court can order a retest for the medical entrance exam held on May 5. (PTI File Image)
 The bench emphasised that the extent of the question paper leak and the beneficiaries across geographical boundaries must be ascertained before the court can order a retest for the medical entrance exam held on May 5. (PTI File Image)

NEW DELHI: Observing that a question paper leak has occurred and that a retest may be necessary if the sanctity of the NEET-UG 2024 is "lost," the Supreme Court on Monday sought information from the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) regarding the timing of the leak and the duration between the leak and the actual test.

During the hearing, the bench noted that if the sanctity of NEET-UG 2024 is "lost" and if the leak of its question paper has been propagated through social media, then a retest must be ordered. It stated that if the question paper leak was occurring through Telegram, WhatsApp, and electronic means, then "it spreads like wildfire."

"If the sanctity of the exam is lost, then a retest must be ordered. If we are unable to identify those who are guilty, then a retest must be ordered," the bench observed. "Let us not be in self-denial about what happened," it said.

The top court questioned, "Assuming that the government does not cancel the exam, what will it do to identify the beneficiaries of the question paper leak?"

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

The apex court also requested the number of wrongdoers identified so far and the methodology adopted for the paper leak. "One thing is clear: a leak of the question paper has taken place," said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.

The top court stated it wanted to know how many people benefited from the question paper leak and what actions were taken against them by the Centre. "How many wrongdoers' results have been withheld, and what is the geographical distribution of such beneficiaries?" it asked.

The bench emphasised that the extent of the question paper leak and the beneficiaries across geographical boundaries must be ascertained before the court can order a retest for the medical entrance exam held on May 5.

The Supreme Court has scheduled the next hearing for July 11. The court is addressing a batch of pleas alleging irregularities in the NEET-UG.

The top court directed the investigating officer of the CBI, which is probing the allegations of malpractices, OMR sheet manipulation, impersonation, and cheating, to present a report on the status of the investigation.

Referring to the legal position on ordering a re-test, the top court said it would need to "scrutinise whether the alleged breach occurred at a systemic level, whether the breach affected the integrity of the entire exam process, and whether it is possible to segregate the beneficiaries of fraud from the untainted students."

"In a situation where the breach affects the entirety of the process and it is not possible to segregate the beneficiaries from others, it may be necessary to order a retest," said the bench, which also includes Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The top court instructed the NTA to disclose the steps taken so far to identify the beneficiaries of the wrongdoing.

The bench asked the NTA to inform it about the steps taken to identify the centres and cities where the question paper leak occurred, the modalities followed for identifying the beneficiaries, and the numbers identified so far.

Expressing concern over ensuring the sanctity of NEET-UG, the top court said it would be necessary for the government to consider setting up a multi-disciplinary team of renowned experts to prevent such instances in the future.

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

It noted certain "red flags" as 67 candidates scored 720 out of 720. "In previous years, the proportion was very low," the bench added.

The bench is also hearing a separate plea from over 50 successful Gujarat-based NEET-UG candidates seeking a direction to restrain the Centre and the NTA from canceling the medical entrance exam. Lawyers representing a petitioner began their submissions, citing paper leaks, OMR sheet manipulation, impersonation, and cheating as grounds for canceling the exam.

The Centre and the NTA, which conducts NEET-UG, recently told the top court through their 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 faced criticism from students and political parties.

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 disputes between rival political parties.

In NEET-UG 2024, a total of 67 students scored a perfect 720, unprecedented in the NTA's history, with six from a Haryana centre 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 July 1.

Tags: supreme court of india, neet-ug, paper leak, national testing agency
Location: India, Delhi