NEET exam hearing: CJI says must be careful on retest | What happened in Supreme Court?

Jul 09, 2024

As the hearing continues in the Supreme Court regarding the retest of the NEET-UG examination, the CJI on Monday said that the retest must be considered very carefully. The court was hearing as many as 33 petitions demanding re-examination, and cancellation of the NEET-UG exam. The hearing for today is over. Supreme Court had asked the NTA, CBI and Central government to file the affidavits at 5 pm on Wednesday and has listed the matter for hearing on July 11. Let us take a look in detail, at the arguments that were presented by both sides and what the Supreme Court observed.

As soon as the hearing started, an advocate for one of the petitioners said that the result was supposed to be declared on June 14 however it was declared early on June 4. Hinting towards an irregularity, he demanded the re-examination. The advocate also claimed that NTA had received mail from a private counsellor entity, which said that the OMR scam was happening. "One day before the exam, a telegram channel claimed to have uploaded the NEET exam question paper" the advocate argued.

Petitioner's advocate mentions issue of 67 toppers

The advocate also informed the court about the first FIR in Patna and said that on May 10, Bihar EOU took over the case from the state police. He also raised the issue of the unprecedented number of toppers. He said that in 2021, 1st position was secured by 3 candidates, while in 2022 and 2023, first rank holders were 2 and 3 respectively. In sharp contrast to that, this year the number rose to 67 candidates.

On his argument of 67 toppers, the court asked him how many of them benefitted from grace marks. To this, Advocate Hodda informed that no topper student got grace marks. Meanwhile, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta arguing for respondents said that the wrong question paper was distributed at one of the centres of the examination. The court then asked the petitioner that on what basis, he was seeking a re-test. The petitioner's counsel argued that Bihar police’s press note says all and if the integrity of the exam is compromised and the fraud in the mechanism has happened there should be a re-test. He also argued that the NTA did not follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

Leak happened, only the extent of it is to be determined

The argument then proceeded on the technicalities of the procedures. The advocate said that printouts of the paper were taken on May 5 and students were made to memorise the answers, claiming that they had the video. CJI Chandrachud then asked about when the papers were sent to and pulled out from the locker of SBI and Canara Bank. To this, the advocate informed that the papers were stored in lockers 5-6 days before the examination and pulled out on May 5. 

Subsequently, the CJI asked for the exact dates when the NTA got the papers. When were they sent for printing to the printing press and how many days were there between printing and distribution? The CJI observed that if the students were asked to memorise the questions, the leak was small however, if the leak was on social media, it was wide adding that in the latter case, the re-test can be conducted. 

Court asks to identify beneficiary of leak, rules out re-test on small malpractise

Calling 67 first trank holder a red flag, the CJI then asked if the cybercrime unit of SEBI be used to investigate the matter. To this, SG Mehta said they have examined the pattern of 100 top-ranking students and they were distributed among 95 centres in 56 cities in 18 states/UTs. The Supreme Court said that the leak is certain only the extent of it is to be determined and the beneficiary of the leak must be identified. 

On re-test, CJI said that because of 2 students' malpractice, an entire examination can not be cancelled. Making strong remarks, the court said, "There should be a sort of a multi-disciplinary committee from experts across the country and we are dealing with the most prestigious branch of study." To this, SG Mehta said that whatever the court suggests, they will assist. The Court then listed the matter for July 11 and asked the NTA, Centre and CBI to file affidavits on Wednesday.