Isolated incidents should not affect lakhs of students who cleared exam rightfully: Pradhan on NEET

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan addresses a press conference regarding the alleged irregularities in NEET 2024 results and UGC-NET 2024 exam cancellation, in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2024.
Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan addresses a press conference regarding the alleged irregularities in NEET 2024 results and UGC-NET 2024 exam cancellation, in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2024.

New Delhi | Amid a raging row and constant demands by the opposition to re-conduct medical entrance exam NEET-UG, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said isolated incidents of malpractices should not affect lakhs of students who cleared the examination rightfully.

The minister said the government will constitute a high-level panel to look into the functioning of the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Addressing a press conference here, Pradhan also appealed to the opposition parties not to politicise the issue and said strict action would be taken against those found guilty, including "top" officials from the NTA.

Ahead of the hurriedly called press conference, there were strong indications that the minister may announce the cancellation of the exam and action against NTA DG Subodh Kumar Singh, who was summoned by the ministry earlier in the day.

Pradhan, however, did not respond to both queries affirmatively.

"Be it NTA or any top official or senior person in NTA, strict action will be taken against whoever is found guilty in the NEET case. No malpractices will be tolerated and the government is committed to holding zero-error exams," he said.

The press conference came a day after the ministry ordered the cancellation of UGC-NET after it received inputs indicating that the sanctity of the exam had been compromised.

"The cancellation of UGC-NET was not a knee-jerk reaction. We got proofs that the paper had leaked on darknet and was circulating on (messaging app) Telegram and decided to cancel the exam," Pradhan said.

He evaded repetitive queries on whether NEET will also be cancelled on lines of NET. Pradhan also did not comment on a timeline by when a final decision will be made on the issue which is keeping 23 lakh candidates on tenterhooks.

"It is unfair to hold hostage the career of those candidates who have rightfully cleared the exam because of some isolated incidents of malpractice.

"We are in constant touch with the Bihar Police. We have sought a report from them. Once we have it, we will decide the future course of action. I take full responsibility and anomalies in the system will be rectified," the minister said.

"Let us have faith in our systems and no irregularities or malpractices will be tolerated by the government," he said.

Earlier in the day, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on the government saying that "it was being said Prime Minister Modi stopped the Ukraine-Russia War and Israel-Gaza war, but he is either not able to stop exam paper leaks or doesn't want".

Asked about attacks from opposition parties, Pradhan said, "I appeal to the opposition to not politicise this issue".

"Let us have faith in our systems and no irregularities or malpractices will be tolerated by the government," he said.

The NEET-UG examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates appeared for it. The results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4, saying the evaluation of the answer sheets got completed earlier.

As many as 67 students scored a perfect 720, unprecedented in the NTA's history, with six from a centre in Haryana's Faridabad figuring in the list, raising suspicions about irregularities. It has been alleged that grace marks contributed to 67 students sharing the top rank.

The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

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