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Observing that a re-test has to be ordered if sanctity of the NEET-UG 2024 is "lost", the Supreme Court .

  NEW DELHI: Observing that a re-test has to be ordered if sanctity of the NEET-UG 2024 is "lost", the Supreme Court on Monday sou...

 




NEW DELHI: Observing that a re-test has to be ordered if sanctity of the NEET-UG 2024 is "lost", the Supreme Court on Monday sought information from the National Testing Agency and the CBI about timing of the question paper leak and duration between the leak and the actual test. The apex court also sought the number of wrongdoers identified so far and the methodology adopted for the paper leak.


"One thing is clear that leak of question paper has taken place," a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said, adding that extent of question paper leak and the beneficiaries across geographical boundaries have to be ascertained before the court may order re-test in the controversy-ridden medical entrance exam conducted on May 5.



Posting for July 11 the next hearing on a batch of pleas alleging irregularities in the NEET-UG, the court directed the investigating officer of the CBI, which is conducting probe into the allegations of malpractices, OMR sheet manipulation, impersonation and cheating, to place before it a report indicating the status of probe.


Referring to legal position on ordering re-test, the top court said it will have to be "scrutinised whether the alleged breach has taken place at systemic level, whether the breach has affected integrity of the entire exam process and whether it is possible to segregate the beneficiaries of fraud from the untainted students".


NEET re-test

"In a situation where breach affects the entirety of process and it is not possible to segregate the beneficiaries from others, it may be necessary to order a re-test," said the bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. It said the NTA must disclose about the steps taken so far for identification of beneficiaries of wrongdoings.


The bench asked the NTA to apprise it about the steps taken to identify the centres and cities where the question paper leak took place, the modalities followed for identifying the beneficiaries and their numbers ascertained so far. Expressing concern over ensuring the sanctity of NEET-UG, the court said it would be necessary for the government to consider setting up a multi-disciplinary team of renowned experts so that such instances are not repeated in future.



During the hearing, the bench observed 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 re-test has to be ordered.


Paper leak on social media

It said if the question paper leak was taking place through Telegram, WhatsApp and electronic means, then "it spreads like wildfire". "If the sanctity of the exam is lost, then a re-test has to be ordered. If we are unable to identify those who are guilty, then a re-test has to be ordered," the bench observed.


"Let us not be in self-denial about what happened," it said, adding, "Assuming that the government does not cancel the exam, what will it do to identify the beneficiaries of the question paper leak?" The apex court was hearing more than 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.



"There is no question that leak of question paper has taken place. We are determining the extent of the leak," the bench observed. It said there were certain "red flags" as 67 candidates had scored 720 out of 720. "In the previous years, the proportion was very low," the bench added.


The top court said it wanted to know how many people benefited from the question paper leak and what actions were taken against them by the Centre. "Results of how many wrongdoers have been withheld, and we want to know the geographical distribution of such beneficiaries," it said.


Petition to cancel NEET UG 2024

The bench is also hearing a separate plea of over 50 successful Gujarat-based NEET-UG candidates seeking a direction to restrain the Centre and the NTA from cancelling the medical entrance exam. The lawyers representing a petitioner started the submissions, saying that they were seeking the cancellation of the exam on grounds such as paper leak, OMR sheet manipulation, impersonation and cheating.


The Centre and the NTA, which conducts NEET-UG, recently told the apex 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 large-scale breach of confidentiality.



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 leak to impersonation in the test. 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 sparring between rival political parties. In NEET-UG 2024, 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 was reduced to 61 from 67 as the NTA announced the revised results on July 1.