If sanctity of exam is lost, then re-test has to be ordered: SC on NEET row

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday expressed deep concern regarding the controversy surrounding the NEET-UG 2024 entrance exam. The apex court said that if the question paper has been leaked via social media, a re-test must be mandated.Additionally, the court also directed Centre and NTA to identify the beneficiary students of the wrongdoing.

During deliberations on various petitions concerning the alleged paper leak, the SC bench remarked that “if the leak has been disseminated via social media, a re-test may be necessary.”

“No question that question paper has been leaked, we are determining extent of leak,” the court observed.”One thing is clear that leak of question paper has taken place,” the bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said.

“If the sanctity of the exam is lost, then a re-test has to be ordered. If we are unable to identify those who are guilty, then a re-test has to be ordered,” the bench observed, adding that if the leak was propagated through social media, then a re-test has to be ordered.

“It is an admitted fact that there is a leak and the nature of leak is something that we are determining. You don’t cancel a whole exam only because 2 students engaged in malpractice. Therefore, we must be careful about the nature of leak. Before we order a re-test we must be conscious of extent of leak as we are dealing with 23 lakh students…,” the apex court observed.

The court also observed that there should be a sort of a multi-disciplinary committee of experts from across the country.

“We are dealing with the most prestigious branch of study and every middle-class person wants their children to study either medicine or engineering, assuming we are not going to cancel the exam, how do we identify the beneficiaries and if we can allow the counselling to happen and what has happened so far,” it noted.

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 top court said it wanted to know how many people benefited from the question paper leak and what actions were taken against them by the Centre.”Results of how many wrongdoers have been withheld, and we want to know the geographical distribution of such beneficiaries,” it asked.

The Centre and the National Testing Agency (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 NTA and the Union education ministry have been at the centre of media debates and protests by students and political parties over alleged large-scale malpractices ranging from question paper leaks to impersonation in the test held on May 5.

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. Allegations of irregularities, including paper leaks, have led to protests in several cities and sparring between rival political parties.

The Centre and the NTA on June 13 told the court that they had cancelled the grace marks awarded to 1,563 candidates.