NEET: SC refuses to defer counselling, 1,563 students to take re-test on 23 Jun

The candidates were earlier awarded grace marks to make up for alleged loss of time at six exam centres

Congress workers stage a protest against NEET-UG exam irregularities, in Mumbai (photo: PTI)
Congress workers stage a protest against NEET-UG exam irregularities, in Mumbai (photo: PTI)


The Supreme Court on Friday refused to defer the NEET-UG counselling process, scheduled to kick off on 6 July, saying it is not an "open and shut" exercise, even as the political pot kept boiling over the controversy-ridden exam, with the Opposition attacking the Centre over alleged paper leaks and other irregularities.

The National Testing Agency (NTA), under fire over lapses in the conduct of NEET-UG (National-Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test) and UGC-NET (National Eligibility Test), is gearing up to conduct a re-test on Sunday for the medical entrance exam for 1,563 candidates who were earlier awarded grace marks to make up for alleged loss of time at six exam centres.

The Congress party, meanwhile, staged protests across the country over the alleged irregularities and demanded the resignation of Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who skipped a Delhi University Yoga Day event where some students held a protest against the alleged exam irregularities.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra launched a scathing attack on the government, saying the issue has become a national problem under BJP rule, which has "ruined the future" of crores of youth.

The protests came a day after Pradhan ruled out any immediate action on cancelling the NEET, saying the government cannot jeopardise the careers of lakhs of students who rightfully cleared the exam in order to compensate for "isolated incidents of malpractices".

According to NTA officials, the re-test for 1,563 candidates scheduled on Sunday will be conducted at seven centres. "While all other examination centres have changed, one centre in Chandigarh, where only two candidates will appear, will remain the same. Besides, officials from the agency and Union education ministry will also be present at these centres. The step has been taken to ensure smooth conduct of the re-exam," a senior NTA official added.

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demanded strict action against the main accused in the NEET-UG question paper leak. In a post on X in Hindi, Mayawati said, "The government needs to take strict action against the main accused in the NEET (question) paper leak case due to which innocent students are suffering. And it is not right to resort to politics under its guise."

Bihar deputy chief minister Vijay Kumar Sinha said a request will be made to chief minister Nitish Kumar to recommend a CBI probe into suspected links of the arrested prime suspect in the NEET "paper leak" with officials associated with Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav.

Sinha had on Thursday claimed that officials associated with Tejashwi Yadav were in constant touch with prime suspect Sikander Prasad Yadvendu in the NEET "paper leak" case.

Trinamool Congress MP Sagarika Ghose on Friday said the spate of paper leaks has exposed the "governance deficit" of the Modi government, and asked why heads are not rolling after the irregularities in the conduct of exams have come to the fore.

The NEET-UG examination was held on 5 May across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates appeared for it. The results were expected to be declared on 14 June but were announced on 4 June, with the NTA saying the evaluation of answer sheets had been completed ahead of time.

As many as 67 students scored a perfect 720, unprecedented in the NTA's history, with six from a centre in Haryana's Faridabad figuring in the list, raising suspicions about irregularities. It has been alleged that grace marks contributed to 67 students sharing the top rank.

The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

The matter was heard by the Supreme Court on Friday and it refused to defer counselling for the controversy-ridden examination. The apex court issued notices to the NTA, the Centre and others on a petition seeking cancellation of the exam over alleged irregularities.

A vacation bench of justices Vikram Nath and S.V.N. Bhatti posted the matter for hearing on 8 July along with other pending pleas alleging irregularities in the conduct of the examination.

Counsel appearing for the petitioners urged the bench that the counselling process be paused for two days as the apex court is scheduled to hear the pleas on 8 July. "I am not seeking any stay of counselling. I am only praying that the counselling which is scheduled to be held on 6 July may be paused for two days only. The reason being that the main matter is listed on 8 July," counsel argued.

The bench observed, "We have been hearing the same statement. Don't think otherwise for interrupting you. Counselling does not mean open and shut. It is a process. That process commences on 6 July."

When the bench asked about the duration of the first round of counselling, one of the lawyers appearing in the matter said it will last around a week.

While hearing separate pleas on the NEET-UG 2024 examination, the apex court had on 18 June said even if there was "0.001 per cent negligence" on the part of anyone in the conduct of the examination, it should be thoroughly dealt with.

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