May need NEET re-test if leak widespread: SC

New Delhi, July 8 (UNI) Stopping short of ordering a retest at this stage, the Supreme Court on Monday said that it is undeniable that a paper leak happened during the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) but cautioned that an exam could not be cancelled because some students cheated.

A re-test would become necessary if there is difficulty in segregating the tainted candidates and the leak is widespread, the court said.

While hearing a batch of petitions challenging the NEET-Under Graduate 2024 exam, the Supreme Court posed many questions to the Union Government and the National Testing Agency (NTA) regarding the nature of the paper leak and the steps taken to identify the beneficiaries of fraudulent practices.

“Assuming that the government does not cancel the exam, what will it do to identify beneficiaries of question paper leak,” the Court asked.

A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra was hearing 38 petitions related to May 5 NEET in which 24 lakh students had appeared.

The Central government and the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts NEET-UG, told the apex court that scrapping the exam would “seriously jeopardise” the future of lakhs of honest candidates, without proof of large-scale breach of confidentiality.

The NTA reiterated the Centre’s stand, saying the cancellation of the entire exam would be hugely “counterproductive” and significantly “harmful to the larger public interest”, especially to the career prospects of the qualified candidates.

While flagging certain issues, the SC said that a view on merit would have to be deferred until further facts are placed on record.

The SC then asked whether a cyber forensic unit, using AI could be involved in ascertaining the number of wrongdoers, exploring the possibility of re-testing them.

Results for NEET-UG were declared on June 4. From material on record it appears that on exam day, May 5, an FIR was lodged in Patna alleging a leak in the NEET-UG 2024.

The Supreme Court then asked how many students’ results have been withheld owing to leakage which took place; adding, where are these students – as in their geographical distribution? Are we still finding out the wrongdoers and have we been able to identify the beneficiaries?

The Court also observed that there should be a sort of 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, said the Supreme Court.

“Are we still in the process of identifying students who were beneficiaries? If we are, then we will have to cancel the exam. Cancellation of exam of 24 lakh students is a matter of extreme…, Let us not be in self-denial about what happened,” the court said.

The Court then posted the matter for further hearing on July 11.

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