Supreme Court to Deliberate on NEET-UG 2024 Allegations Amidst Calls for Re-Test

Today, the Supreme Court is set to address a series of pleas centered around the highly contentious NEET-UG 2024 medical entrance examination. Among the numerous petitions are claims of widespread irregularities and malpractice in the May 5 test, with many calling for the cancellation of the exam and a directive to conduct it again.

Recently, both the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA), responsible for administering NEET-UG, informed the apex court that nullifying the exam would be “counterproductive” and would “seriously jeopardize” the prospects of countless honest candidates. They emphasized that there was no substantial evidence indicating a large-scale breach of confidentiality.

According to the cause list for July 8, posted on the Supreme Court’s official website, a bench including Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra will hear a total of 38 petitions related to the NEET-UG exam.

NEET-UG, orchestrated by the NTA, serves as a gateway for admissions into MBBS, BDS, AYUSH, and other related courses across various government and private institutions nationwide. The NTA and Union Education Ministry have recently found themselves at the epicenter of media debates and student protests, as allegations of significant malpractices, from question paper leaks to impersonation, surfaced regarding the May 5 test.

Both the Union Education Ministry and the NTA have submitted separate affidavits to the Supreme Court opposing the pleas that seek the scrapping of the exam, a court-monitored retest, and an in-depth investigation into the issues at hand.

In their defense, the authorities underscored that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the premier investigating agency of the country, has assumed control over the cases filed in various states. The Centre, in a preliminary affidavit submitted by a Director in the Ministry of Education, stated, “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 Ministry emphasized, “Scrapping the exam in its entirety would seriously jeopardize the lakhs of honest candidates who attempted the question paper in 2024.”

Echoing the Centre’s stance, the NTA reiterated, “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 NTA firmly asserted that the NEET-UG 2024 exam had been conducted with fairness and due confidentiality, devoid of any illegal practices. The agency dismissed claims of “mass malpractice” as “completely unfounded, misleading, and lacking any basis.

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“In the absence of tangible factors warranting such actions, the cancellation of the entire examination process 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 stated.

According to the Ministry and the NTA, there is no evidence of any large-scale breach of confidentiality in the examination, which saw participation from over 23 lakh candidates at 4,750 centres across 571 cities. The government has constituted a high-level committee of experts tasked with suggesting effective measures for conducting transparent, smooth, and fair examinations by the NTA.

The affidavit also mentioned that this panel would provide recommendations for reforms in the examination process, improvements in data security protocols, and the overall structure and functioning of the National Testing Agency. Initially scheduled for release on June 14, the results were announced on June 4 due to the early completion of the answer sheet evaluation.

Allegations of irregularities, such as paper leaks, have sparked protests in several cities and have become a focal point of debate among rival political parties. The Centre and the NTA had informed the court on June 13 that they canceled the grace marks awarded to 1,563 candidates, giving them the option to either retake the test or forego the compensatory marks initially awarded for loss of time.

The NTA released a revised rank list on July 1 following the results of a re-test held on June 23. Notably, an unprecedented 67 students scored a perfect 720, with six from a Haryana centre, raising suspicions about possible irregularities. Allegations surfaced that grace marks might have contributed to these top scores. The number of candidates sharing the top rank decreased from 67 to 61 as the NTA announced the revised results on July 1.

The proceedings of the Supreme Court today will be crucial in determining the future course of action, balancing the allegations of malpractice with the interests of lakhs of candidates who have appeared for the examination fairly. The nation awaits the court’s decision with bated breath, as the implications will resonate across the educational and political landscape.

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