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NEET hearing: 'There are 23 lakh students, we must be careful on NEET retest': Supreme Court

Controversy over NEET-UG exam erupted after results were declared | Unusually high number of perfect scores raised red flags

Reported by:  PTC News Desk  Edited by:  Jasleen Kaur -- July 08th 2024 03:13 PM -- Updated: July 08th 2024 05:33 PM
NEET hearing: 'There are 23 lakh students, we must be careful on NEET retest': Supreme Court

NEET hearing: 'There are 23 lakh students, we must be careful on NEET retest': Supreme Court

NEET hearing: The Supreme Court on Monday advised caution as it reviewed several petitions calling for a re-test of the NEET-UG exam conducted on May 5, whose results were released last month, but have been tainted by allegations of leaked questions and the provision of 'grace marks' for 1,563 students.

The Supreme Court stressed that specific conditions, particularly if the time gap between the leak and the exam was limited, would argue against ordering a re-test. The apex court remarked, "If students were asked to memorise leaked questions on the morning of the exam, the leak might not have been so widespread."

A three-Judge Bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, expressed reluctance to mandate a re-test for nearly 24 lakh students, many from financially disadvantaged backgrounds who would find it challenging to afford travel to exam centres again. "A re-test is the last option," stated the Chief Justice.

The court acknowledged the breach of exam integrity, noting, "One thing is clear... questions were leaked. The sanctity of the exam has been compromised... this is beyond doubt. Now we have to establish the extent of the leak." Emphasising caution, the Chief Justice added, "You don't cancel because some students cheated. We must be careful..."

The Supreme Court highlighted that a re-test could only be considered if there was a significant time interval (not specified by the court) between the leak and the exam. Alternatively, a re-test would be necessary if the authorities couldn't identify those responsible for the wrongdoing. The court also requested details about the printing process and humorously advised the NTA (National Testing Agency) not to disclose sensitive information.

The NTA had been served a notice by the court two weeks ago regarding this issue.

Instead of ordering an immediate re-test, the court recommended forming a multi-disciplinary panel to investigate the matter further, an issue already under investigation by the CBI and the police. The CBI's probe spans multiple states and has led to questioning individuals and several arrests. The next court hearing is set for Thursday.

The Supreme Court also criticised the government's approach, accusing it of being in "denial" and urging it to be "ruthless" in dealing with candidates who paid for the leaked exam papers and those who supplied them. "Let us not be in self-denial about what happened," said the Bench, which also included Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. The Bench further questioned, "Assuming we do not cancel, what will the government do to identify the beneficiaries? You have to be ruthless... bring some sense of confidence to the process."

The Controversy

The controversy over the NEET-UG exam erupted last month after the results were declared. An unusually high number of perfect scores raised red flags; a record 67 students, including six from one coaching centre, scored a maximum of 720. Additionally, questions arose over the award of 'grace marks'—a practice not typically followed by the NTA—to 1,563 students. Although a re-test was held for those 1,563 students last week, thousands did not appear for the exam.

The NEET-UG issue followed the cancellation of the UGC-NET exam, used for appointments to professorial posts in colleges and universities, due to similar concerns. Consequently, the NEET-PG exam, initially marred by similar issues, has been rescheduled and will now take place later this month, while the NET exam is set for July 25-27.

Political Fallout

The incident has also sparked political unrest, with the opposition Congress-led INDIA bloc attacking the ruling BJP in Parliament, leading to chaos in both Houses during debates on the Motion of Thanks to President Droupadi Murmu's joint address. The NEET-UG paper leak controversy continues to be a significant point of contention in Indian politics and education.

- With inputs from agencies

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