NEET-UG case: SC directs NTA, CBI, Centre to submit reports by Wednesday; matter listed for July 11

The court stressed, 'We have to be ruthless in identifying the beneficiaries of the paper leak.'
Last Updated : 08 July 2024, 11:12 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) to inform about the extent of leakage of NEET-UG examination paper and provide the time lag between leakage and examination held on May 5, 2024, observing that there was no doubt that the sanctity of exam has been compromised.

A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said if the segregation between beneficiaries of fraud and untainted candidates is not possible then retest has to be held.

"It is an admitted fact that there is a leak and the nature of leak is something that we are determining. if it is not extensive then there is no cancellation. But before we order a retest, we must be conscious of extent of leak as we are dealing with 23 lakh students. This concerns cost to be incurred, travelling, dislodging of academic schedule, so what is the nature of leak? How was the leak disseminated, what are the actions which the Centre and NTA has done to identify the beneficiary students of the wrongdoing," the bench said.

The court stressed, "We have to be ruthless in identifying the beneficiaries of the paper leak."

The bench also noted one thing is clear, questions were leaked and the sanctity of the exam has been compromised, this is beyond doubt.

"Let us not be in self denial and that is only adding to the problem," the bench said, while asking the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on the possibility of using cyber forensic team and data analytics to identify suspicious markers.

The bench also asked the CBI to file a status report of the investigation carried out since June 23.

The court decided to hear the batch of petitions on July 11, seeking fresh examination to the NEET-UG, 2024 due to paper leakage and other irregularities.

Upon hearing counsel for the petitioners and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre and the NTA, the bench said whether retest should be held or not has to be based on settled parameters as the court has to see whether the alleged breach took place at the systemic level, or it is of a nature which affects integrity of the entire exam process. The court also said it is important to see whether it is possible to segregate the beneficiaries of the fraud from the untainted students.

"In a situation where breach of sanctity affects entirety of exam and if segregation is not possible then retest is needed, but if beneficiaries are identified then retest wont be needed which involves students on such a large scale," the bench said.

"It has to be noted that re exam for 24 lakh students is difficult. If we see that the leak was on social media then it is extremely widespread and if it is through Telegram, WhatsApp then it spread like wildfire and we also have to see the balance with the time of leak like if it was May 5 morning before students went for exam," the bench observed.

The court directed the NTA to make full disclosure on the nature of leak, places where the leak took place and the lag of time between the leak and holding of the exam.

The bench also directed the Union government and the NTA to inform whether it would be feasible to use data analytics in cyber forensics unit or any other employed by government to identify suspect cases, so that modality can be formed to segregate the tainted from the untainted students.

"If an exercise needs to be done to deduce more beneficiaries of the leak, a policy decision needs to be taken on the status of the leak. It would be necessary for the government to set up a multi disciplinary team of renowned experts to ensure due measures are taken to obviate any further breach in NEET. The constitution of the committee shall be informed to the court and the court shall decide if the committee shall go ahead or would someone be needed to ensure people from a diverse pool of domain expertise and data analytics," the bench said.

The court sought an affidavit by NTA, Union government and the CBI, including a report by the Investigating Officer as to how the leak was disseminated by Wednesday.

During the hearing, the bench noted radical increase in number of students who got the maximum marks in this year as a counsel pointed out in 2020 it was only one student in 2021, it was three in 2022, only one in 2023 and two candidates secured full marks.

Published 08 July 2024, 11:12 IST

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