NEET-UG counselling in four rounds from July third week, Centre tells Supreme Court

Cancellation of candidature of wrongdoers will not impact overall counselling process, allocation of seats, govt says

Updated - July 11, 2024 10:20 pm IST

Published - July 11, 2024 12:05 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Anxious students and others at the Supreme Court complex in New Delhi.

Anxious students and others at the Supreme Court complex in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Centre said counselling for the controversy-hit NEET-UG 2024 would be conducted in four rounds from the third week of July even as the Supreme Court deferred the hearing of the case on Thursday to July 18.

A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud accepted the request of lawyers to adjourn the hearing. Advocates Mathew J. Nedumpara and Charu Mathur, appearing for the petitioners, said the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) had filed their counter-affidavits late on Wednesday, leaving little time for them to go through the documents.

Chief Justice Chandrachud informed the assembled lawyers that the CBI, which is investigating the case, has already filed a status report. The CBI has made several arrests in the past few days.

The previous hearing on July 8 saw the apex court orally remark that the sanctity of NEET was compromised beyond doubt. Despite this, the Chief Justice had expressed reluctance to order a re-test. The top judge reasoned that such a step would be an ‘extreme last resort’ as it would be traumatic for the over 23 lakh students who had appeared in the undergraduate medical admissions test across the country on May 5 and whose careers now hang by a thread as allegations of question paper leaks, impersonation and other illegalities rage on. The court has sought clarity on whether the leaks were a result of systemic failure and whether there was a possibility to segregate the wrongdoers from the innocents.

IIT report

The government, in its latest affidavit, has banked on an IIT (Madras) report to count out ”mass malpractice” in the exam.

The Centre assured that candidatures of students found to be beneficiaries of any malpractices would be cancelled at any stage during the counselling process or even afterwards. It asserted that the counselling process could be maneuvered around such cancellations.

The government explained that the allocation of seats would depend on the timing of the cancellation of seats if certain candidates were found to be beneficiaries of malpractices. Candidates are usually allowed to change seats in the first and second rounds of counselling as per options exercised by them. Cancellation would not have any impact on the overall counselling process and allocation of seats if done before the third round, which is expected to start in the second week of September.

If candidature is cancelled after the third round, the vacant seats could still be offered in the subsequent round. Candidates who have already been allocated seats in the earlier rounds would not be able to participate in the subsequent round, the government said.

In case the candidature of any candidate is cancelled after the conclusion of four rounds, the vacated seats could be put up for additional rounds of counselling, the Centre submitted.

Nearly 40 petitions

The apex court is dealing with nearly 40 petitions alleging irregularities such as students receiving different marks on their scorecards compared to their OMR sheets; unprecedented inflation of cut-off and average marks resulting in an unprecedented 67 candidates achieving perfect 720 marks, etc. Many of these petitioners have sought a direction from the court to scrap NEET-UG 2024 and hold fresh exams.

The NTA, which holds the exam, has rubbished the allegation that 67 candidates scored perfect marks as “fallacious and incorrect”. It said the total number of actual candidates whose final scores reflected perfect 720 marks was 61. Out of these 61, 17 candidates spread across 16 centres in 15 cities had obtained 720/720 based on provisional answer keys and 44 on account of the revision in one answer key of Physics.

“Thus, the actual candidates without revision of the answer key were only 17 candidates, which is not significantly higher than previous years,” the NTA has reasoned.

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