SC to hear batch of pleas related to controversy-ridden NEET-UG 2024 on Monday

The Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts NEET-UG, recently told the apex court that scrapping the exam would be 'counterproductive' and 'seriously jeopardise' lakhs of honest candidates.
Last Updated : 07 July 2024, 07:07 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Monday a batch of pleas related to the controversy-ridden medical entrance exam NEET-UG 2024, including those alleging irregularities and malpractices in the May 5 test and seeking a direction to conduct it afresh.

The Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts NEET-UG, recently told the apex court that scrapping the exam would be "counterproductive" and "seriously jeopardise" lakhs of honest candidates in the absence of any proof of large-scale breach of confidentiality.

According to the cause list for July 8 uploaded on the court's website, a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra is scheduled to hear a total of 38 petitions related to the exam.

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.

The NTA and the Union education ministry have been at the centre 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 May 5.

The Union education ministry and the NTA have filed separate affidavits in the apex court, opposing the pleas which have sought scrapping of the exam, a re-test and a court-monitored probe into the entire gamut of issues involved.

In their responses, they have said the CBI, the country's premier investigating agency, has taken over the cases registered in different states.

"It is also submitted that at the same time, in the absence of any proof of any large-scale breach of confidentiality in a pan-India examination, it would not be rational to scrap the entire examination and the results already declared," the Centre said in its preliminary affidavit filed by a director in the ministry of education.

"Scrapping the exam in entirety would seriously jeopardise the lakhs of honest candidates who attempted the question paper in 2024," the ministry said.

The NTA, in its separate affidavit, reiterated the Centre's stand and said, "The cancellation of the entire examination on the basis of the aforesaid factor, would be hugely counterproductive and significantly harmful to the larger public interest, especially to the career prospects of the qualified candidates." The agency said the entirety of the NEET-UG 2024 exam was carried out fairly and with due confidentiality without any illegal practices, and the claim of "mass malpractice" during the exam is "completely unfounded, misleading, and lacks any basis".

"It is submitted that if the entire examination process is cancelled without there being any tangible factors warranting such actions it would be highly detrimental to the larger public interest involving the academic career of lakhs of students who have attempted the examination fairly without any wrongdoing or even an allegation of wrongdoing," the NTA said.

The ministry and the NTA have said there was no proof of any large-scale breach of confidentiality in the examination which was taken by over 23 lakh candidates at 4,750 centres in 571 cities.

The government said it has constituted a high-level committee of experts to suggest effective measures for conducting transparent, smooth and fair examinations by the NTA.

The affidavit said the panel shall make recommendations on reforms in the mechanism of the examination process, improvement in data security protocols and structure, and functioning of the National Testing Agency.

Initially expected on June 14, the results were announced on June 4 due to early completion of the answer sheet evaluation.

Allegations of irregularities, including paper leaks, have led to protests in several cities and sparring between rival political parties.

The Centre and the NTA on June 13 told the court that they had cancelled the grace marks awarded to 1,563 candidates.

They were given the option to either take a re-test or forgo the compensatory marks awarded for loss of time.

The NTA announced the revised rank list on July 1 after issuing the results of the re-test held on June 23.

A total of 67 students had 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 reduced to 61 from 67 as the NTA announced the revised results on July 1.

Published 07 July 2024, 07:07 IST

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