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Education Minister’s Assurance To NEET Students Says “Injustice….”

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan met with students on both sides of the dispute and listened to their concerns, even as the Supreme Court postponed its hearing on opposing petitions calling for a retest of the NEET-UG and those in favour of one due to purported irregularities.

According to sources, Mr. Pradhan gave the students assurances during the 30-minute meeting that injustice would never be allowed to happen to them and that the government is taking a number of measures to make sure that similar irregularities do not occur in future exams.

While some students told the minister that it would be unfair to penalize people who have not indulged in cheating of any sort by asking them to sit for a retest, others said the irregularities were widespread enough to necessitate one.

Nearly 24 lakh students had appeared for the NEET-UG 2024 for undergraduate medical courses, which is conducted by the National Testing Agency, on May 5. The results were announced on June 4, 10 days before schedule, but allegations of question paper leaks and grace marks to over 1,500 students triggered protests. Cases were also filed in courts, including the Supreme Court. 

The education minister told the students that since the matter is now being heard by the Supreme Court, the government will take further action based on its decision. He said the Education Ministry has presented its side before the court and it is now up to the judges to decide. 

In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the Centre said that a comprehensive analysis of the results had revealed that there was no large-scale malpractice or evidence of a local set of candidates benefiting. 

The Union government also reiterated its stance that it does not intend to hold a retest of the medical entrance exam. Doing so on the basis of “unsubstantiated suspicions”, it said, would burden nearly 24 lakh students. 

The Centre told the court that it intends to start the counselling process for NEET-UG, which is the final stage for admissions, from the third week of July in four phases. If any candidate is found to have benefited from any irregularity, their counselling will be cancelled in any of the phases or even after, it said. 

In its affidavit, the Centre said the data analysis was carried out by experts from IIT Madras. The data revealed that there is an overall increase in the marks obtained by students, specifically in the range of 550 to 720, and this rise has been seen across cities and centres. 

The Centre said the increase can be attributed to a 25% reduction in syllabus.

In a hearing on Monday, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said it was loathe to order a re-test for nearly 24 lakh students – many of whom come from poor families and could ill afford to spend money travelling to exam centres – unless necessary. A re-test is the “last option”, it said.

“One thing is clear… questions were leaked. The sanctity of the exam has been compromised… this is beyond doubt. Now we have to establish the extent of the leak,” the Chief Justice said.

Another hearing was supposed to be held on Thursday, but it has been deferred to July 18.

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