NEET-UG 2024: SC Issues Notices on Cancellation and Investigation Petitions

NEET-UG 2024

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought responses from the Centre, the National Testing Agency (NTA), and other parties regarding petitions concerning NEET-UG 2024 exam, including those advocating for its cancellation and a court-monitored investigation into alleged irregularities.

The apex court has also stayed proceedings on certain pleas related to the examination currently pending in various high courts nationwide.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and SVN Bhatti issued notices to the concerned parties on four separate pleas filed by NTA seeking transfer of pending petitions, including those addressing purported paper leaks, from high courts to the Supreme Court. Upon issuing notices on NTA’s petitions, the agency’s counsel requested a stay on proceedings in these matters before the high courts.

The bench said, “Issue notice, returnable on July 8,” and directed, “In the meantime, further proceedings before the high courts shall remain stayed.”

The bench also addressed several other petitions, including one filed by 20 students who appeared in the medical entrance test, seeking the exam’s annulment conducted on May 5 and urging NTA and others to conduct a fresh test.

No Stay on Counselling Process

Notably, the bench clarified that it was not staying the counseling process. “All this has been argued from day one and they (some petitioners) have been wanting stay of counselling. We have denied that,” remarked the bench. “Ultimately, if all of you succeed, everything will go. The examination goes and the counselling will also go.”

An advocate representing one petitioner suggested deferring counselling until after July 8. The bench inquired about the counselling timeline from NTA’s counsel, who responded, “The counselling will start on July 6, but it will not finish on July 6. It will take time.”

Another counsel informed the bench about an arrest made in Bihar in connection with the investigation into alleged irregularities in the exam. The lawyer also mentioned FIRs lodged in Bihar and Gujarat regarding these irregularities, suggesting that the police be asked to provide a status report on their investigations.

Updates on Investigation and Arrest

During the hearing, the bench observed that petitioners in the matter were making similar arguments. The counsel representing the Centre noted that coaching institutes have also filed petitions at times. “They have a right to come. Because their business is … these students only and if you play with them and you meddle with their rights, then these coaching centres will come,” observed the bench.

Earlier, while hearing separate pleas concerning NEET-UG 2024 examination, the apex court had emphasized that even “0.001 per cent negligence” in the conduct of the examination should be thoroughly addressed. The NTA administers the all India pre-medical entrance test.

Last week, the Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre and NTA on a plea for a CBI probe into allegations of question paper leaks and other irregularities in NEET-UG 2024. On June 13, the Centre and NTA informed the court that they had cancelled the grace marks awarded to 1,563 candidates and provided them with the option to either retest or forego the compensatory marks.

Exam Details and Allegations

The NEET-UG 2024 examination took place on May 5 across 4,750 centres with approximately 24 lakh candidates participating. The results, initially expected by June 14, were announced on June 4 due to early completion of answer sheet evaluations. Allegations of question paper leaks, particularly in Bihar, and other irregularities have sparked protests and led to petitions in several high courts and the Supreme Court.

In a noteworthy development, 67 students achieved a perfect score of 720, an unprecedented occurrence in NTA’s history, with six students from a centre in Haryana’s Faridabad making the list, raising suspicions of irregularities. It has been alleged that grace marks contributed to 67 students sharing the top rank.

NEET-UG is conducted by NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH, and related courses in government and private institutions nationwide.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte