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NEET-UG 2024: Controversy surrounds alleged exam paper leak

At one end, the Supreme Court, which was hearing the petitions, denied a stay on the counseling dates. The other, the Union Education Minister, dismisses the chance of a "paper leak." Surprisingly, Bihar Police's Economic Offences Unit (EOU) discovered post-dated cheques signed out to a mafia, raising the possibility of a paper leak.

Pragya Kumari 17 June 2024 12:09

Protest against NEET 2024

Representational Image: PTI

The Supreme Court of India (SC) is hearing petitions for the cancellation and re-examination of the National Eligibility and Entrance Test Undergraduate (NEET-UG 2024) due to suspected paper leaks and anomalies in grace mark allocation.

A vacation bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah is hearing the first petition (Shivangi Mishra and others vs. National Testing Agency and others) filed by Shivangi Mishra and nine others on June 1, before the results were announced.

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Three more petitions are being heard in court to cancel the NEET UG 2024 exam and conduct a new examination because of suspected irregularities in the grace mark distribution. These petitions will be heard by Justices Vikram Nath and Sandeep Mehta. The petition additionally asks for a stay on the counseling procedure.

Prior to this, the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the Central Government received notices from the SC about these petitions. Despite the court's observation that the integrity of the medical entrance exam had been violated, the counseling procedure for undergraduate medical admissions was not halted by the court. The court set July 8 for further hearings, remarking that "sanctity has been affected; we need answers."

On the flip side, the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of Bihar Police has found post-dated cheques that appear to have been written out to a mafia that sought more than ₹30 lakh from every applicant in exchange for the purportedly leaked question paper prior to NEET-UG 2024.

Deputy Inspector General of EOU Manavjit Singh Dhillon stated, "EOU investigators found 6 post-dated cheques during the investigation that were issued in favor of criminals who allegedly provided question papers to the candidates ahead of the examination."

He also said, "The EOU investigators also found partially burned exam papers inside the safe house where candidates were kept before the examination. We have asked the NTA for reference questions. So far, it has not responded to this. We shall forward the burned question paper to the relevant forensic lab for analysis as soon as we receive reference question papers from the NTA.”

"Investigators are obtaining information about account holders from the relevant banks," he continued.

13 people have been arrested by the EOU thus far in relation to the purported NEET-UG 2024 paper leak case; 4 of them are examinees and their families. Nine candidates have been sent notifications by the police to participate in the investigation: seven are from Bihar and one each from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Responding to the allegations of the paper leak, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on June 16 said, "Two different kinds of irregularities have come to light in connection with NEET. According to the first report, some students received grace marks since they had less time. Secondly, two locations have revealed certain anomalies. I assure the students and parents that the government has taken this seriously.”

"We have the information, and we plan to pursue every matter to a final resolution. Whoever is involved, even big officials, in this will not be spared. There needs to be a lot of improvement in NTA. The government is concerned about this. No guilty individual will be spared; they will face the worst punishment possible,” Pradhan continued.

However, the education minister ruled out the prospect of any anomalies in the NEET-UG examination, noting that there was "no paper leak" in the NEET-UG paper and that the government is prepared to respond to the Supreme Court, hearing the exam-related petitions.

Students protesting against NTA about NEET UG exam
Image: PTI

The NTA simplified the computation of 67 toppers, claiming that 17 students received a 720/720 score and six students out of 1,563 candidates were awarded 'grace marks' and finished in the top ranks.

In addition, 44 other students were awarded AIR 1 since they provided incorrect answers to a physics question and received "grace marks" for it. According to the NTA, a multiple-choice physics question about atoms in a previous NCERT book contained an inaccurate statement.

However, after releasing the provisional answer key, the question was challenged by 13,373 students, who stated that NTA's answer did not match the previous NCERT texts. The NTA claims that the question paper was based on the new NCERT book.

44 students' scores were raised from 715 to a flawless 720 as a result of this decision. These two scenarios resulted in a rise in total toppers from 17 to 67.

In the midst of a tweet war on X (formerly Twitter), Congress Kerala is demanding a CBI investigation into the NEET scandal, while Samajwadi Party (SP) President Akhilesh Yadav has called for the cancellation of the NEET exam. MK Stalin, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, tweeted, "NEET, an examination masquerading as a measure of merit, has repeatedly exposed itself as a pervasive scam affecting all levels of society. The Union government must stop defending this anti-student, anti-social justice, and anti-poor NEET system.”

Kapil Sibal, a senior advocate and Rajya Sabha member, also tweeted about the incident, saying, "The present NTA has really bungled and corruption has been brought to light on media platforms, such as providing solutions for question papers for something like becoming a doctor. Some of these incidents in Gujarat have perplexed me and are a matter of great national concern. I think NTA should answer some of these very serious questions.”

He questioned Prime Minister Modi's silence on the situation.

Delhi Minister and AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj slammed the Central government over the NEET affair, saying, "On May 5, the NEET exam was conducted, and on May 4, the exam paper was leaked in Bihar. The question paper was given to some students, and those students cleared the exam. Police have arrested four students in connection with it. This incident shows that the paper was leaked. The central government is silent. Neither a CBI inquiry nor steps for a re-test are being taken."

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