NEET-UG exam: CBI claims paper leak limited to single Bihar centre

The affidavit in the Supreme Court denied reports of widespread malpractice based on an IIT-Madras report

A student demonstration in New Delhi against the NEET question paper leak (photo: Vipin)
A student demonstration in New Delhi against the NEET question paper leak (photo: Vipin)

NH Digital

The union government submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court ruling out “mass malpractice” or localised set of candidates having been benefited in the NEET-UG 2024 paper leak based on a data analytics report submitted by the Indian institute of Technology-Madras.

The CBI made the submission in its status report submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover on Thursday, 11 July and it stated that the leak was confined to a single exam centre in Bihar and affected only a few students.

The CBI's submission is in line with the union government’s stance which has opposed a full NEET-UG retest for 23 lakh students who appeared for the entrance exam on 5 May. The Centre, in its affidavit before the Supreme Court, said there was no indication of “mass malpractice” in the exam.

According to the Centre, the IIT study took into account parameters such as marks distribution, city-wise and centre-wise rank distribution and candidates spread over marks range.

To date, 11 arrests have been made by the CBI, including eight from Bihar. The agency that is probing the alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam has registered six FIRs in Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, the union government informed the Supreme Court that the counselling process for NEET 2024-25 will be held in four rounds beginning the third week of July. It has added that the "beneficiaries of malpractice will be barred" from counselling.

NEET is conducted by the National Testing Agency for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and related courses in government and private institutions. More than 23 lakh candidates wrote the NEET-UG exam this year, on May 5, at 4,750 centres in 571 cities and 14 places abroad.

The IIT Madras report has found that Kottayam in central Kerala was the third in the country of top rank holders after Sikar and Kota in Rajasthan. Sikar, which had 27 people in top-1,000 in 2023 reported 55 top rank-holders this year. Kota had 35, an increase of 22 from last year. Kottayam, which had 14 rank-holders in top-1000 now has 25.

The affidavit was submitted after the court sought to know whether it would be feasible to use data analytics to identify suspect cases and segregate tainted students from untainted ones.

In a separate affidavit, NTA said the viral videos purportedly showing photos of the leaked question paper on social media app Telegram were fake. "This analysis indicates that the distribution of marks is quite normal and there seems to be no extraneous factor which would influence the distribution of marks," said the NTA.

The Supreme Court on Monday, 8 July had said the fact that question papers were leaked in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (Undergraduate) (NEET-UG) cannot be denied, during the hearing of over 30 pleas related to the controversy surrounding the NEET-UG 2024 medical entrance exam. The hearing in case will continue on 11 July.

The petitions allege irregularities and malpractices in the 5 May test, and seek a directive to conduct the exam afresh. However, the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA), which administers NEET-UG, have argued against cancelling the exam.

The bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said it must be ascertained if the paper leak was widespread so as to decide whether a retest would be required.

The SC had underscored that it wanted to know the entire exam process, the nature of FIRs, how the leak disseminated, and what actions the Centre and NTA have taken to identify the beneficiaries of wrongdoing. The bench said if the question paper leak was taking place through messaging platforms like Telegram and other electronic means, "it spreads like wildfire".

The court asked the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) to submit a status report on the investigation into the paper leak cases and asked the Union government and the NTA to respond to a few questions.

It asked the NTA to give details of the number of students who scored 720/720 (the maximum marks possible) and if they were beneficiaries of grace marks, students who scored exceptionally high marks in one subject, but abysmally low marks in another subject, and students who registered at one centre but shifted to another centre and scored high marks, and wanted to know results of how many "wrongdoers" were withheld as well as the geographical distribution of such beneficiaries

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