NEET-UG Exam Scandal: CBI Arrests Private School Owner from Gujarat’s Godhra

In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has apprehended Dixit Patel, the owner of Jay Jalaram School in Godhra, Gujarat, as part of an ongoing probe into alleged malpractices in the NEET-UG examination held on May 5. This arrest brings the total number of detained individuals to six, with five earlier arrests made by the Gujarat Police. The individuals are alleged to have demanded Rs 10 lakh each from at least 27 candidates, promising to help them clear the examination.

Dixit Patel, the latest person to be arrested in this scandal, was taken into custody early Sunday morning at his residence in Panchmahal district. Public prosecutor Rakesh Thakor confirmed the arrest, stating, “As the case has been handed over to the CBI by the Gujarat government, a CBI team will produce him before a designated court in Ahmedabad to acquire his remand.”

Among those previously arrested by the Panchmahal police are Vadodara-based education consultant Parshuram Roy, Jay Jalaram School principal Purushottam Sharma, school teacher Tushar Bhatt, and alleged middlemen Vibhor Anand and Arif Vohra. The arrests highlight a convoluted network aimed at manipulating the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate admissions in medical colleges.

After formally taking over the investigation last week, the CBI sought custody of four accused individuals excluding Roy. On Saturday, a district court in Godhra remanded Sharma, Bhatt, Anand, and Vohra to the CBI’s custody until July 2. Initial findings by the CBI have revealed that the accused instructed candidates willing to use illegal methods to secure higher scores to choose Jay Jalaram School as their examination center.

Notably, the previous year’s NEET exam at Jay Jalaram School had exposed a significant security lapse: answer sheets were stored overnight at the location. The CBI’s investigation indicates that this oversight provided the accused the opportunity to tamper with Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) sheets. Authorities believe the accused counseled candidates to leave unanswered questions they found difficult, allowing school personnel to fill in the correct answers post-exam.

Tushar Bhatt, a physics teacher, is suspected of being the key operative in filling out the OMR sheets with correct answers while the sheets were still held within the school premises.

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. A significant breakthrough in the investigation occurred when Bhatt, who was designated as the deputy superintendent for the NEET-UG exam at the school center, was apprehended with Rs 7 lakh in cash on the day of the exam. This preemptive intervention was made possible through a tip-off to the authorities, averting planned irregularities.

Parallel investigations by Gujarat Police have led to significant findings, including the discovery of cheques worth Rs 2.30 crore in Parshuram Roy’s office. Roy allegedly convinced over two dozen students that he could ensure their success in the NEET exam for a fee of Rs 10 lakh each. Factoring into the gravity of the case, only three of the 27 students involved managed to achieve passing scores despite paying the exorbitant bribes, while the remainder failed the examination.

Further investigations by the CBI remain ongoing, focusing on uncovering the full extent of the incidental network. Last week, statements were recorded from six candidates who admitted to paying bribes, directly implicating the arrested suspects. These developments underscore systemic vulnerabilities within the examination framework, necessitating rigorous reforms to restore public trust in the integrity of competitive exams.

Meanwhile, the seventh accused, Parshuram Roy, remains pivotal to expanding the scope of the investigation. Gujarat Police initially registered a case on May 8 against Bhatt, Roy, and Vohra for manipulating the NEET-UG process by extorting Rs 10 lakh from each candidate. This case has now been transferred to the CBI for a more comprehensive probe.

As the investigation unfolds, the role of various stakeholders in facilitating academic fraud will be scrutinized further. The educational sector and regulatory bodies now face mounting pressure to institute enhanced security measures and ensure adherence to stringent ethical practices, thereby safeguarding the sanctity of standardised examinations like NEET-UG.