Sanctity of NEET-UG breached, decision on re-test to be based on extent of paper leak effect: SC

The court said 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.
SC on NEET-UG 2024
SC on NEET-UG 2024

New Delhi | Observing that the sanctity of the NEET-UG 2024 has been "breached", the Supreme Court on Monday said a re-test may be ordered if the entirety of the process is affected and sought details from the National Testing Agency and the CBI including the timing and manner of the paper leak, besides the numbers of wrongdoers, to know the extent of its effect.

"Let us not be in self-denial. Self-denial is only adding to the problem," a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud told the Centre and the NTA, which conducts the prestigious test, in a string of strongly-worded observations.

"One thing which is very clear is that the leak has taken place. That the sanctity of the exam has been breached is beyond doubt. The question is how widespread is the leak," said the bench which also comprised Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Posing a volley of searching queries, the bench said a re-test has to be ordered if the breach in sanctity affects the entirety of the process.

The court said 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.

It said the extent of question paper leak and the beneficiaries across geographical boundaries have to be ascertained before the top court may order a re-test in the controversy-ridden exam which was taken up by 23.33 lakh students at 4,750 centres in 571 cities including in 14 cities overseas.

It said if the breach was confined to specific areas and it was possible to identify the wrongdoers, then it may not be appropriate to order for a re-test in an examination of such a massive scale.

The apex court said it will have to scrutinise whether the alleged breach has taken place at a "systemic level", whether it has affected the integrity of the entire exam process and whether it was possible to segregate the beneficiaries of the fraud with untainted candidates who undertook the test on May 5.

"In a situation where a breach in sanctity affects the entirety of the process and it is not possible to segregate the beneficiaries of the wrongdoings from others, it may be necessary to order a re-test," the bench said.

"One thing is clear that leak of question paper has taken place," it said and sought information from the NTA about the number of wrongdoers identified so far and the methodology adopted for it.

The court directed the investigating officer of the CBI, which is conducting a probe into the allegations of malpractices, OMR sheet manipulation, impersonation and cheating, to place before it a report indicating the status of the probe as on Monday.

It said the NTA must disclose the steps taken so far for the 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.

"Before we decide to pass an order for a re-test, we must understand what is the nature of leak," the bench said, adding it was tough to ask over 23 lakh candidates to re-appear for the examination.

"What is the modality in which the leak took place? If the modality of the leak is through electronic means like Telegram and WhatsApp ..., then there is a possibility that the leak is widespread," it said.

"From this perspective, the NTA is directed to clarify on the basis of the materials in its possession: (i) When the leak of question paper first took place; (ii) the manner in which question paper was leaked and disseminated; (iii) the time duration between the occurrence of leak and the actual conduct of exam which took place on May 5," it said.

While seeking information about the status of counselling of NEET-UG 2024, which has been deferred for the time being, the top court also asked the Centre and the NTA about the feasibility of using the data analytics from the cyber forensic unit or other expert agencies to ascertain suspect cases where they can be asked to take up re-test.

Expressing concern over ensuring the sanctity of NEET-UG, the court said it would be necessary for the government to consider setting up a multidisciplinary team of renowned experts so that such instances are not repeated in future.

The bench was hearing over 30 pleas related to the NEET-UG 2024 including those alleging irregularities and malpractices in the May 5 test and seeking a direction to conduct it afresh.

It said if the question paper leak was taking place through Telegram, WhatsApp and electronic means, then "it spreads like wildfire".

"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 pleas will be taken up on July 11.

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 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.

Chronology of events in NEET-UG 2024 case

New Delhi | Following is the chronology of events in the NEET-UG 2024 case in which the Supreme Court on Monday observed that sanctity of the exam is "breached" in view of the question paper leak:

* Feb 9, 2024: Public notice for NEET-UG 2024 issued by National Testing Agency (NTA) for online submission of application form.

* May 5: NEET-UG 2024 exam conducted at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including 14 cities abroad.

* May 17: SC seeks responses from Centre and NTA on plea alleging irregularities in NEET-UG 2024 held on May 5.

* June 4: Results for NEET-UG 2024 declared, 67 candidates bagged top rank.

* June 11: Observing that sanctity of NEET-UG 2024 has been affected, the SC sought responses from the Centre and the NTA on a plea seeking holding of a fresh examination on grounds of alleged question paper leak and other malpractices.

* June 13: Centre tells SC it has cancelled grace marks given to 1,563 candidates who took the NEET-UG examination for admission to MBBS and other such courses. Centre says they will have the option to either take a re-test or forgo the compensatory marks awarded to them for loss of time.

* June 14: SC sought responses from the Centre and the NTA on a plea seeking a CBI probe into allegations of question paper leak and other irregularities in NEET-UG 2024.

* June 18: SC said even if there was "0.001 per cent negligence" on the part of anyone in the conduct of the NEET-UG 2024 examination, it should be thoroughly dealt with.

* June 23: As many as 813 of the 1,563 candidates who were earlier awarded grace marks in NEET-UG appeared for a re-test, officials said.

* July 1: Number of candidates sharing top rank in medical entrance test NEET-UG reduced to 61 from 67 as the NTA announced revised results.

* July 5: Scrapping NEET-UG 2024 exam in entirety would "seriously jeopardise" lakhs of honest candidates and not be rational in the absence of any proof of large-scale breach of confidentiality, the Centre told the SC.

* July 5: NTA tells SC that cancellation of NEET-UG 2024 would be hugely counterproductive and significantly harmful to the larger public interest, especially to the career prospects of those who cleared it.

NEET-UG probe: CBI arrests one in Maharashtra

New Delhi | The CBI has arrested a person in connection with alleged "manipulation" in the NEET-UG examination in Latur in Mahrashtra, taking the total number of arrests by the agency to nine, officials said.

The CBI took into custody one Nanjunethappa G in connection with the Latur case which was earlier probed by the Maharashtra Police, they said.

It is alleged that two government school teachers in Latur had demanded over Rs five lakh from NEET-UG aspirants to ensure their success in the examination, they said.

The CBI has so far arrested six persons in Bihar NEET-UG paper leak case and one each in connection with alleged manipulation in Latur and Godhra and one from Dehradun in connection with general conspiracy, they said.

The Centre had asked the agency to probe the matter following a massive row over alleged malpractices in the test held on May 5.

The CBI has registered six FIRs in the case. The FIR from Bihar pertains to leakage of paper while the remaining from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra pertain to impersonation of candidates and cheating.

The agency's own FIR on a reference from the Union Education Ministry pertains to a "comprehensive investigation" into alleged irregularities in the medical entrance examination.

NEET-UG is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions. This year, the exam was conducted on May 5 at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including 14 abroad. More than 23 lakh candidates had appeared for the test.

NEET spotlight: Exams that have been affected in 2024 by paper leaks, last minute cancellations

New Delhi | The Supreme Court hearing in cases pertaining to alleged irregularities in medical entrance exam NEET-UG has been posted for July 11 with aspirants waiting for clarity on the fate of the crucial exam. The NEET row has put the spotlight on paper leaks and discrepancies in the examination system.

Here is a list of exams that have been affected this year either due to paper leaks or last moment cancellations due to other reasons:

1. NEET-UG

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 suspicion 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 after conducting a retest for 1,563 candidates.

The exam has also been riddled with allegations of paper leaks which are being probed by the CBI with several quarters demanding a retest. The Education Ministry has been maintaining that it is not fair to jeopardise careers of lakhs of candidates who have rightfully cleared the exam.

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.

2. UGC-NET

The exam was cancelled a day after its conduct when the Education Ministry received inputs that the integrity of the exam was compromised. Later, the ministry said the paper was leaked on the dark web. The matter is being probed by CBI. The exam is scheduled to be re-conducted from August 21-September 4.

3. UP Police Constable Recruitment Examination

Over 48 lakh aspirants, including around 16 lakh women, participated in the UP Police Recruitment Exam 2024 held on February 17 and 18. The exam was conducted at 2,385 centres in four shifts across all 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh with an aim to fill 60,244 positions in the state police force. Following allegations of paper leak, the exam was cancelled and is now being probed by a Special Task Force (STF). The exam is yet to be reconducted.

4. Joint CSIR-UGC-NET

The Joint CSIR-UGC-NET is a test conducted to determine eligibility for junior research fellowship and assistant professor and admission to PhD in science courses. The exam was postponed two days before its schedule citing logistical reasons. The exam is now scheduled from July 25 to 27.

5. NEET-PG

The National Eligibility Entrance Test-Postgraduate (NEET-PG) , was cancelled by the Health Ministry a night before the scheduled date as a "precautionary measure". The exam will now be conducted on August 11 in two shifts.

6. CUET-UG

The CUET-UG exam conducted in a hybrid mode for the first time across the country was cancelled in Delhi a night before the exam, citing logistical reasons. The exam was conducted in the national capital later.

The results for the exam which were slated to be announced by June 30 have been delayed. The National Testing Agency (NTA) on Sunday announced that it will conduct a retest from July 15 to 19 for candidates whose grievances about conduct of exams are found genuine.

7. NCET

The National Common Entrance Test (NCET) for admission to the 4-Year Integrated Teacher Education Programme (ITEP) was scheduled on June 12 with over 40,000 candidates slated to appear.

The exam was cancelled after due to technical reasons, the examination could not be initiated at all examination centres and could only commence at few centres. The exam will now be conducted on July 10.

Latest News

No stories found.

Related Stories

No stories found.