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NEET sanctity hit, says SC; seeks Centre, NTA response on plea for fresh exam

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New Delhi: Observing that the sanctity of NEET-UG, 2024 has been affected, the Supreme Court on Tuesday sought responses from the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) on a plea seeking holding of a fresh examination on grounds of alleged question paper leak and other malpractices.
The top court, however, refused to stay the counselling of successful candidates for admissions to MBBS, BDS and other courses.
Taking note of the allegations, a vacation bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah said what the NTA was supposed to do was sacrosanct. “Sanctity (of the exam) has been affected, so we need answers,” he said.
Besides the Centre and the NTA, which conducts NEET-UG, the bench also issued notices to the Bihar government. There were allegations of malpractice in holding the exam in the state.
“How much time do you want…Immediately on the re-opening? Otherwise, the counselling will start,” the bench said.
It tagged the plea filed by Shivangi Mishra and nine other MBBS aspirants with a pending petition and asked the NTA to file the response in the meantime. The top court will resume regular hearings from July 8 after the summer vacation which commenced on May 20 comes to an end.
NEET-UG, 2024, was held on May 5 and results were declared on June 4. It was expected to be declared on June 14.
The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG) examination is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.
“Issue notice. In the meantime, the response will be filed by the National Testing Agency,” the bench said.
It, however, did not agree to the submission of lawyer Mathews J Nedumpara, appearing for the students, that the counselling of students be stayed in the meantime.
“Let the counselling start, we are not stopping the counselling… We will not stop the counselling. If you argue further, we will dismiss this (the plea),” the bench told the advocate.
It took note of the submission that the fresh plea be tagged with a similar petition filed earlier on which a bench headed by CJI DY Chanrdarchud had issued notices to the Centre and the NTA on May 17 and that the plea was already listed on July 8. The court granted the prayer.
“The allegation is that exam papers were leaked, and large number of students got the exam papers in advance, and they became successful. Twenty three lakh students wrote the examination, and total number of seats available is 1 lakh. This is the most coveted examination. Sixty-seven students got 720 out of 720 marks.
“The sanctity of the examination is so sacrosanct, and something has gone terribly wrong. The court has refused to stay the counselling, i.e. the admission…” lawyer Nedumpara later told PTI Video.
Mishra and nine other MBBS candidates sought a direction to the NTA “to recall the results of the examination conducted on May 05 and to conduct the examination afresh after issuing due public notice upon revelation at the end of investigation through a report that large number of examinees are bound to be affected by the declaration of results depriving those qualified examinees of just and fair opportunity to compete in seeking admission in college of their choice.”
The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre and the NTA to take effective and meaningful steps to ensure that “malpractices and fraud”, in particular leaking of the question papers as has happened in the previous examination, does not happen again.
It said petitioners are young aspiring students hailing from different states and are “shaken at the core” due to the question paper leak. The petitioners are under tremendous stress and anxiety as the alleged paper leak has denied them a level playing field, it said.
“Four individuals, including two MBBS students, have been arrested for allegedly running a paper solver gang for NEET exams at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Mehta Vidyalaya in New Delhi,” the petition said.
“Hence, in the backdrop of …peculiar facts and circumstances, the Petitioners seek kind indulgence of this court urgently in the interest of justice, equity and good conscience,” it said.
The plea alleged that NEET-UG, 2024, was riddled with malpractices and various instances of paper leaks have come to the knowledge of the petitioners.
The instances of question paper leak were violative of Article 14 (right to equality) under the Constitution as they gave an undue advantage to some candidates over others who chose to attempt the examination in a fair manner, it said.
On May 17, a CJI-led bench refused to grant a stay on the results of the NEET-UG 2024. It, however, had agreed to issue notice on the plea for re-examination. Similar petitions are pending in different high courts as well.
One of the petitions before the Supreme Court has specifically referred to the allegations that the paper was leaked in Patna and wrong question papers were given to candidates in Rajasthan. News reports also state that an extraordinarily large number of candidates got a perfect score of 720 out of 720.

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