NEET-UG Row: SC Pulled NTA; Seeks Answer on Cancellation Plea

The Supreme Court on Tuesday (On June 11) refuses to stay counseling process for admissions in MBBS, other courses for successful candidates.
NEET-UG Row: SC Pulled NTA; Seeks Answer on Cancellation Plea

The Supreme Court on Tuesday (On June 11) refuses to stay counseling process for admissions in MBBS, other courses for successful candidates. But court seeks response of National Testing Agency (NTA) on plea seeking fresh National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET-UG) 2024 on grounds of 'paper leak', other 'malpractices'.

Black Mark on NTA:

In the wake of the NEET UG 2024 results, which saw an unprecedented 67 candidates scoring a perfect 720/720, widespread protests have erupted across India. NEET aspirants, along with their parents and various stakeholders, have raised serious concerns about potential irregularities in the examination process. Various political parties and students unions are demanding to hold Re-Neet exam.

NTA to Conduct Counseling as per Schedule: 

When hearing the petitions, SC issued notice to the Centre and the National Testing Agency on a petition seeking the cancellation of the NEET-UG exam held this year for Under Graduate Medical courses over an alleged paper leak and other malpractices.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah posted the matter on July 8. However, Court refused to stay the counseling of successful candidates for admission to MBBS, BDS and other courses.

"It is not that simple that because you have done it is sacrosanct. Sanctity has been affected, so we need answers," Justice Amanullah told the counsel representing the National Testing Agency.

The counsel for the NTA submitted that the petition be tagged along with an earlier petition on which notice was issued by a bench led by the Chief Justice of India on May 17. That petition is listed on July 8, he informed. The bench then posted the present petition along with the earlier petition which is listed on July 8.

Advocate Mathews J Nedumpara, appearing for the petitioners, sought for a stay of the counseling. However, the bench refused to do so.

 "Let the counseling start, we are not stopping the counseling," Justice Nath orally said.

Petition on NEET Paper Leak & Grace Marks:

Subsequently another petition was filed by Shivangi Mishra and nine others on June 1 before the declaration of the results (Shivangi Mishra and others vs National Testing Agency and others Diary No.25656/2024). After the declaration of the results, few more petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court questioning the decision of the National Testing Agency to award grace marks to several candidates. However, those petitions, which were filed after the declaration of results, were not listed on June 11.

The writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution seeks to direct the National Testing Agency to conduct the exam again in view of the allegations of the paper leak. Raising doubts about the sanctity of the exam held on May 5, the petitioners seek the cancellation of the exam.

On May 17, while considering another petition seeking similar reliefs, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the declaration of the results of the NEET-UG exam. Though the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud issued notice on that petition and posted the matter in July, the bench stated that the results of the exams held on a pan-India basis cannot be stayed.

Key Allegations of NEET Row:

  • NEET aspirants pointed out the improbability of 67 candidates achieving perfect scores in a single year, compared to much lower numbers in previous years. They questioned the possibility of so many students answering every question correctly despite the negative marking scheme.

  • As per the media reports; there are 44 aspirant of the 67 toppers received grace marks due to an error in the provisional answer key. This has raised doubts about the reliability and validity of the examination process.

  • It was reported that multiple top scorers came from the same exam center in Faridabad, Haryana, which had experienced disruptions during the exam. This led to suspicions about the integrity of the examination process at that center.

  • The cut-off marks for government medical colleges have significantly increased, putting additional pressure on students from poor and middle-class backgrounds. This change has made it harder for students scoring below 660 to secure affordable medical education.

  • The NEET results were announced earlier (June 4) than scheduled June 11), coinciding with the parliamentary election results, which many believe was an attempt to divert attention from the controversy.

  • There have been reports of student suicides linked to the NEET results, further emphasizing the pressure and stress caused by the examination process.

NTA's Clarifications:

Normalization Formula: The NTA explained that grace marks were awarded to compensate for lost time during disruptions at certain exam centers, based on a normalization formula approved by the Supreme Court.

Increased Number of High Scorers: The agency attributed the rise in perfect scores to a 15% increase in the number of candidates and adjustments in the answer key based on multiple correct answers.

Transparency Measures: The NTA asserted that it had maintained transparency throughout the exam process and that no paper leak had occurred. They acknowledged instances of impersonation and assured that appropriate legal actions were being taken.

Final Results and Challenges: The NTA mentioned that challenges to the provisional answer key were thoroughly reviewed, leading to the awarding of grace marks in specific cases.