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NEET-UG Row: Supreme Court Considers Pleas for Independent Probe; ABVP Questions NTA

A third-party review had found various worrying “non-compliances” at a number of exam centres on May 5, the day the NEET-UG exam was held.
A protest in Hyderabad against the NEET exam irregularities. Photo: X/@SatishManneINC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday (June 20) refused to delay the NEET-UG retest scheduled for June 23, for the 1,563 candidates who were awarded “grace marks” in the 2024 exam. The National Testing Agency (NTA) had earlier decided to recall the controversial decision to award grace marks for those who apparently did not get the full amount of time set aside for the test, and given these students the option to take a retest.

The court also said it would examine pleas against NTA chairman Pradeep Kumar Joshi heading the committee that will probe the paper leak, as he was in charge of holding the examination. The bench issued notice to the NTA and the Union on plea to form an independent enquiry committee to investigate the paper leak. The case will be heard again on July 8.

As The Wire has reported, the biggest issue with the NEET-UG is that this year’s unusual spike in the number of students with very high scores has inflated ranks, jeopardising the chances for thousands of meritorious students. There are allegations of a paper leak, widespread cheating and candidate impersonation.

The NTA’s credibility has been questioned across the board – even from within the Sangh parivar. National general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP – the students’ wing of the RSS) Yagywalkya Shukla told The Indian Express, “There is a perception of mismanagement by NTA. How is it that question papers are reaching 15-20 minutes late in certain centres? How is it that 7-8 students from the same centre get 100% marks? How did 67 students get 720 marks? There is a question mark on NTA’s credibility. Aur jab praja ke taraf se sawaal hai, to sarkar ke taraf se jawab hona chahiye (When citizens are asking questions, the government must respond).”

Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union human resource development minister, had earlier claimed that no concrete evidence of any rigging, corruption or paper leak has been found so far in the NEET exam. Due to public pressure, on Thursday he had to agree that a high-level committee will be formed to probe the functioning of the NTA. He also admitted that at least once instance of a paper leak had been found, in Bihar. Pradhan underlined that “errors” in the NEET exam were in specific regions, adding that one isolated incident (Bihar paper leak) should not affect lakhs of students who took the exam sincerely. He said his ministry is in touch with the Bihar government and will soon get a report from the Bihar Police.

Also read: Dreams and Paper Leaks Collide: Understanding India Through the Lens of NEET and UG-NET Fiasco

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a press conference, had said the main reason for paper leaks is that educational institutions have been dominated by the BJP and its parent organisation RSS, and paper leaks will not stop unless that is reversed. “They have hired vice-chancellors that follow RSS ideology and therefore, such mediocre people are running our institutions,” he said.

A report in The Indian Express reveals that a third-party review had found various worrying “non-compliances” at a number of exam centres on May 5, the day the NEET-UG exam was held. “These included the absence of the mandated two working CCTVs in exam rooms; and examples of strong rooms, where question-papers are stored at the exam centre, being left unguarded,” the newspaper noted. The NTA was reportedly informed of these findings on June 16.

Four men have been arrested in Bihar in a paper leak case, including NEET aspirant Anurag Yadav. They have told the police that they received the paper a day before the exam was held, and memorised it.

“I was made to read and memorize it at night. When I went for the exam, I found the same questions which I had memorised correctly. After the exam, the police came and caught me, and I confessed my crime,” Yadav said, alleging that he got the paper from his uncle, a junior engineer at Danapur municipal council.

Yadav’s uncle Sikandar claimed that the other two accused – Nitish Kumar and Amit Anand – told him they could leak the question paper of any competitive exam and it would cost Rs 30-32 lakh for each aspirant to clear NEET.

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