NEET row: Supreme Court to examine pleas for independent panel inquiry

The petitioners questioned Centre’s appointment of NTA chairman as the head of high-powered committee which recommended re-test for 1,563 NEET-UG candidates who were given grace marks

Updated - June 21, 2024 02:56 am IST

Published - June 20, 2024 11:32 am IST - NEW DELHI

All India Students Association (AISA) students protesting over the alleged NEET-UG exam scam 2024 and demanding the resignation of Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, at Shastri Bhawan in New Delhi on June 19, 2024.

All India Students Association (AISA) students protesting over the alleged NEET-UG exam scam 2024 and demanding the resignation of Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, at Shastri Bhawan in New Delhi on June 19, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to examine pleas questioning the Centre’s appointment of National Testing Agency (NTA) chairman Pradeep Kumar Joshi as the head of the high-powered committee which recommended re-test for 1,563 undergraduate National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) candidates who were given grace marks.

The NTA, which conducts the NEET-UG exam, is facing allegations of question paper leaks and other irregularities.

“The chairperson of this high-powered committee is the head of the NTA. The head of the NTA has given a pat on his back and says there is nothing wrong, but we are withdrawing the scores of 1,563 candidates,” a counsel, appearing in one of the petitions, submitted before a Vacation Bench of Justices Vikram Nath and S.V. Bhatti.

The petitioners have sought an independent panel constituted by the Supreme Court to enquire into the NEET imbroglio.

During the hearing, a lawyer referred to the last time the court had formed such a committee headed by a former apex court judge in the Adani-Hindenburg short-selling case.

“The Securities and Exchange Board was asked to investigate, but this court also constituted an independent panel,” the counsel argued.

Steady flow of pleas

There has been a steady flow of petitions in the apex court against the NTA and the Union government in the past two weeks. The apex court has agreed to hear all of them. The petitions have prayed for several reliefs, including CBI investigation and even re-examination. A petitioner informed the Bench on Thursday about arrests made in Bihar in connection with the NEET question paper leaks.

Petitioners questioned the method used by the NTA to arrive at the figure of 1,563 candidates for re-test scheduled for June 23.

“How did the NTA arrive at the figure of 1,563… What criteria was followed? The list of these students has not been made public on the website or anywhere… Absolutely arbitrary,” the petitioners submitted.

One of the petitioners challenged the validity of holding the re-test itself, arguing that the law has only prescribed for one NEET a year.

“There can’t be two in a year?” he submitted.

The petitioners include a cross-section of aspirants, relatives and even a coaching centre. Over 24 lakh students had appeared in the NEET-UG 2024 exam held on May 5.

The court listed the petitions for hearing on July 8, while repeatedly denying pleas to postpone the date for counselling, which is likely to be held on July 6.

“We will not stay the counselling. After all, if the exam eventually goes, the counselling will also go,” Justice Nath observed orally.

The Bench, nevertheless, stayed proceedings linked to the NEET case in Rajasthan, Calcutta and Bombay High Courts based on petitions filed by litigants to transfer these cases to the Supreme Court to be heard along with other pending pleas on July 8.

The petitioners have alleged irregularities like students receiving different marks on their scorecards compared to their OMR sheets; unprecedented inflation of cut-off and average marks resulted in an unprecedented 67 candidates achieving a perfect score of 720/720; six of these toppers were from the same exam centre in Haryana; students having scored 718 and 719 marks, which is “statistically questionable”; no disclosure of method/criteria adopted for grant of compensatory marks for loss of time, etc.

Also Read | Supreme Court says any negligence in conduct of NEET should be dealt with thoroughly

Also read | NEET, UGC-NET row: Kerala CM slams Centre’s ‘failure’ to protect integrity of national-level examinations

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