Heartburn at coaching centres as NEET lands in court

NSUI members stage a protest demanding a fresh NEET-UG Entrance Exam 2024 over alleged irregularities in its results, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)
NSUI members stage a protest demanding a fresh NEET-UG Entrance Exam 2024 over alleged irregularities in its results, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)


  • Allegations of paper leak remains unsolved, although education minister Dharmendra Pradhan has denied any evidence about it
  • Govt to scrap grace marks for 1,536 students and allow them to take retest; or, they can keep current scores without grace marks

New Delhi/Mumbai: Coaching centres that train millions of students for competitive exams expressed apprehensions over the latest national pre-medical entrance test after allegations of arbitrary grace marks and paper leaks, even as the government defended the testing authority and the conduct of exams.

In an unusual development, a record 67 candidates shared the top rank in the latest National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) to select students for medical, dental and related courses. Six of them were from the same exam centre, sparking student protests and suspicions of leaked question papers.

The National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts NEET, attributed the steep scores to curriculum changes and grace marks awarded for time lost at exam centres. On Thursday, the government informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to scrap grace marks given to 1,536 students and allow them to take a re-test.

Also read  |  Here is all you need to know about NEET controversy

"No one won today, but this is a loss for the education system and a sad day... The paper leak issue remains unresolved," said Alakh Pandey, CEO of edtech PhysicsWallah, who had petitioned the Supreme Court. On the edtech's YouTube channel, Pandey called for an investigation into the entire exam mark database. "There is a question of the right to equality. Why allow a re-exam for just 1,563 students? What about other students who are not part of the petition, especially those in villages?," he added.

"Arbitrary grace marks"

Pandey's petition had claimed that the award of grace marks was "arbitrary." He said he had surveyed about 20,000 students, which showed about 70-80 marks were randomly awarded as grace marks to at least 1,500 students. The court closed the issue of grace marks in this petition but kept it pending to consider other grievances.

"The paper leak allegations remain unsolved. And what proof is there that more students were not granted grace marks? The issue of grace marks came to light only when students protested," said Pramod Maheshwari, founder of Career Point, a coaching institute in Kota where hundreds of thousands of students prepare for engineering and medical entrance examinations.

The decision to scrap the grace marks to 1,536 students came after a review by a four-member committee of NTA members and the education ministry officials. These students will be notified of their actual scores, excluding the grace marks, and will have the option to take a re-test if they choose not to retain their current scores from the 5 May examination. The retest will be on 23 June and its results are scheduled for release before 30 June to ensure the counselling process is held on 6 July as scheduled. The government's lawyer Kanu Agarwal told the apex court earlier in the day that grace marks had led to a “skewed situation".

Also read |  NEET UG 2024 result row: Re-test for all 1,563 candidates on June 23, says NTA

"As previously emphasized in our representation letter to NTA, we encourage it to provide a comprehensive and specific plan to ensure the quality and transparency for the lakhs of medical professionals remains intact, and that the examination process remains beyond reproach in the future," said Nitin Kukreja, CEO, ALLEN Career Institute, one of the largest coaching centres in Kota.

No evidence: Minister

There was no evidence of a question paper leak, said education minister Dharmendra Pradhan. "I want to assure the students and their parents that the Government of India and NTA are dedicated to ensuring justice for them. 24 lakh students have successfully appeared for the NEET examination. There has been no paper leak, and no evidence has been uncovered thus far. A court-recommended model was adopted for approximately 1,560 students, and a panel of academicians has been convened for the same," Pradhan told reporters.

Also read |  NEET UG 2024: Grace marks cancelled for 1,563 candidates, Centre tells SC

“This development marks a small yet significant victory for us, reinforcing our contention that there are serious issues with the NEET 2024 process," Shwetank Sailakwal, one of the petitioners' lawyers in the case, told Mint. "The acknowledgment by NTA suggests potential widespread corruption within the system. We remain hopeful that the Hon'ble Supreme Court will consider our request for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to be appointed, ensuring a thorough and transparent inquiry under its supervision," he added.

Challenge disposed of

On Thursday, the Supreme Court disposed of a candidate's petition challenging grace marks. The candidate had argued that any normalization formula for awarding grace marks should only apply proportionately to unanswered questions due to time loss. Additionally, the court issued notice on a separate petition alleging a paper leak during the exam and consolidated it with similar petitions.

Furthermore, a petition filed by The Students Islamic Organization of India (SIO) members Abdullah Mohammed Faiz and Dr. Shaik Roshan Mohiddin sought the recall of NEET-UG 2024 results and a fresh exam citing alleged paper leaks and other irregularities. The court earlier issued a notice on this petition.

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