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NEET row: 17 Bihar NEET-UG candidates who appeared in May 5 exam debarred by NTA over malpractice

Over 13 lakh candidates out of around 25 lakh qualified the NEET-UG this year and they will compete for around 1.8 lakh MBBS/dental seats.
Last Updated : 23 June 2024, 13:49 IST

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The CBI on Sunday took over the probe into alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG following a reference from the Union education ministry, while the National Testing Agency cracked the whip against more students as it debarred 17 from centres in Bihar after detection of "malpractices".

With a section demanding the cancellation of the May 5 exam, the ministry officials reiterated the government's earlier stand that the incidents of malpractices were "localised" or "isolated" and it was not fair to jeopardise the careers of lakhs of candidates who cleared the exam rightfully.

In an optional retest held for students whose grace marks were scrapped after the matter reached the Supreme Court, only 813 of the 1,563 such candidates appeared on Sunday.

These candidates were awarded grace marks by the NTA to make up for the loss of time at six centres due to a delay in the start of the examination on May 5. There were allegations that it led to inflation of marks and contributed to six of the grace mark candidates from the same centre in Haryana scoring a perfect 720 marks along with 61 others.

"At least 52 per cent -- 813 out of 1,563 candidates -- appeared for the retest on Sunday. While no candidate appeared in Chandigarh, the number of candidates appearing from Chattisgarh (291), Gujarat (1), Haryana (287) and Meghalaya (234)," a senior National Testing Agency (NTA) official said.

Over 13 lakh candidates out of around 25 lakh qualified the NEET-UG this year and they will compete for around 1.8 lakh MBBS/dental seats.

Amid allegations of irregularities as well as "bunching of high scorers", the NTA stated that the top one lakh candidates are spread across 4,500 centres all over the country.

Moreover, nearly two third of these are from rural or semi-rural areas, it stated.

The Bihar Police's Economic Offences Unit (EOU) handed over a report to the Education Ministry on Saturday following which the probe was handed over to CBI for comprehensive investigation.

"Based on the inputs received 17 candidates who appeared from centres in Bihar were debarred. This takes the number of total candidates debarred from the exam this year to 110," an NTA official added.

The agency had earlier debarred 63 candidates for adopting unfair means in the exam. On Saturday, 30 additional candidates from Gujarat's Godhara were also debarred.

Amid countrywide protests and litigation by aspirants, the CBI filed the FIR in connection with alleged irregularities in NEET-UG under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) among others.

Officials said the ministry alleged in a complaint, now part of the FIR, to the agency that "certain isolated incidents" occurred in a few states during the conduct of the examination.

"The ministry of education has requested the CBI to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the entire gamut of alleged irregularities, including conspiracy, cheating, impersonation, breach of trust and destruction of evidence by candidates, institutes and middlemen," a CBI spokesperson said.

The role of public servants, if any, connected with the conduct of the examination and also into the entire gamut of events, and the larger conspiracy will also be under the scanner, according to the officials.

Meanwile, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) questioned two teachers who run a private coaching centre in Latur district in connection with the alleged irregularities.

The Centre had on Saturday night removed NTA DG Subodh Kumar Singh and put him on "compulsory wait" till further orders.

The opposition stepped up its attack on the government over the issue, with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Sunday demanding Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's resignation.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the buck stops at the doorstep of the top echelons of the Modi Government and shuffling the bureaucrats is no solution. Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged the Modi government has handed over the entire education system to the "mafia" and the "corrupt" after the Centre cancelled UGC-NET and postponed NEET-PG and CSIR-UGC-NET.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin said the cancellation of exams was not a one-off event "but the final nails in the coffin of an incompetent and broken system of centralised selection".

The BJP, however, asserted the government has taken on the NEET issue "head on".

"It notified the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, appointed a high powered committee to look at streamlining exam process and eliminating lose ends, sacks NTA DG, orders CBI probe in NEET (UG), besides postponing several exams, preempting possible compromises, to safeguard student interest," BJP's IT department head Amit Malviya said.

He alleged that the Congress' ally RJD was linked to the paper leak in Bihar and its leaders should not use the issue for their "dirty politics".

The Union education ministry's high-level panel for suggesting exam reforms and reviewing functioning of the National Testing Agency will meet on Monday, sources said.

The ministry had on Saturday notified the seven-member panel headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K Radhakrishnan to ensure transparent, smooth and fair conduct of examinations through the NTA.

On Sunday, the NTA also clarified that its website and all its other web portals are fully secure, and reports that these have been compromised and hacked are wrong and misleading.

"NTA website and all its web portals are fully secure. Any information that they have been compromised and hacked is wrong and misleading," a senior official said.

The NEET-UG was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates appeared. The results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4.

The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

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Published 23 June 2024, 13:49 IST

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