‘Grace marks’ reversed amid raging NEET row | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Grace marks’ reversed amid raging NEET row

ByAbraham Thomas
Jun 14, 2024 05:42 AM IST

SC allows Centre to scrap grace marks for 1,563 NEET students & conduct a fresh test on June 23. Chaos surrounds premier medical entrance exam.

New Delhi The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Centre to scrap grace marks awarded to 1,563 students and conduct a fresh National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for them, taking the first step in dispelling the chaos engulfing India’s premier medical entrance examination that threatens to jeopardise the futures of hundreds of thousands of children.

Police personnel stop the protesters in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. (ANI)
Police personnel stop the protesters in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. (ANI)

The Centre told the top court that it proposed to withdraw scorecards issued to 1,563 students awarded grace marks on account of loss of time during the May 5 test. The students will be given the option of appearing for the fresh exam, to be held on June 23, or retain their actual scores without the grace marks.

A vacation bench of justices Vikram Nath and Sandeep Mehta termed the decision “fairly reasonable” and disposed of a petition that opposed grace marks and called it discriminatory. But it refused to stall the counselling for medical seats, leaving it for the court to decide on July 8, when it will rule on a bouquet of complaints about this year’s examination.

“These issues will be dealt with on July 8. If this court quashes the entire selection, then automatically counselling will go. Why should we stay the counselling at this stage?” the court asked.

Hours later, the National Testing Agency (NTA) issued a statement confirming that the grace marks had been withdrawn and that a new test will be conducted on June 23.

A topper, 17, said his school and coaching centre had advertised his achievement and that the court decision “made a mockery of him”.

“What if I do not make it this time? Society will laugh at me and my family members,” said the boy who attempted NEET for the first time.

But the decision represents only a small fraction of the problems roiling NEET this year, primary among which is the fact that 67 people scored a perfect 720, up from two in 2023 and zero in 2022. Junking grace marks will only remove six people from this list of 67. Other apparent inconsistencies in the process — such as six candidates getting perfect scores from the same centre in Faridabad, 44 students getting marks because of discrepancies in old and new physics textbooks, or inflated marking that has skewed the percentiles — remain unaddressed.

The chaos has sparked sweeping protests across India as thousands of students have hit the streets against this year’s process amid allegations of question paper leaks, and opposition parties have called for a Supreme Court monitored probe into the allegations.

The Congress on Thursday demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry and asserted that the anger in the country over the matter will “reverberate inside Parliament as well”.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said that over the last 10 years, the Modi government has ruined the future of millions of young people.

“Grace Marks was not the only problem in NEET exam. There has been rigging, papers have been leaked, corruption has taken place. The future of 24 lakh students appearing in the NEET examination is at stake due to the actions of the Modi government,” the Congress president said in a post on X.

He alleged that exam centres and coaching centres had formed a nexus.

The government has rejected the allegations of a leak even as it has set up a committee to look into the process.

Responding to Kharge’s allegations, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that there is no concrete evidence of any kind of rigging, corruption or paper leak.

“I want to remind the Congress that to prevent paper leak and to conduct a cheating-free exam, the central government passed the Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act this year, which has many strict provisions. Congress should not be under the misconception that if any nexus is found, no action will be taken against it,” he said in a post on X.

The vacation bench disposed of the petition filed by NEET candidateJaripiti Kartheek after suggestions given by a four-member panel formed by the ministry of education on the issue. The petition challenged the grant of grace marks to 1,563 candidates.

The recommendations of the committee dated June 12 submitted by advocate Kanu Agarwal, appearing for the Centre, sought the withdrawal or cancellation of the scorecards of the 1,563 candidates issued on June 4.

Taking the suggestions on record, the bench said, “We dispose the petition in view of the stand taken above as stated by the Union of India and the National Testing Agency (NTA).”

NTA, represented by senior advocate Naresh Kaushik, informed the court that results will be available before June 30 to ensure the counselling process, which begins on July 6, does not get affected.

Advocate Y Balaji, appearing for the petitioner Kartheek, termed the decision “fair” and was satisfied with the proposal submitted by the Centre.

However, advocate J Sai Deepak, who appeared for Alakh Pandey, the founder and CEO of edtech firm Physicswallah, said that the window should not be restricted to 1,563 candidates. He said that the grace marks were not envisaged under the NEET examination policy and this denied a fair chance to 2.4 million candidates who appeared in the examination.

But the bench disagreed.

“These are all educated people who are aware of their rights. The examination was conducted on May 5 and nobody else has approached on this count for over a month. If we open the window, all sorts of requests will come saying enough time was not granted,” it said.

The court kept the matter pending as it also touched upon alleged malpractices and paper leaks — two aspects being considered in two separate petitions pending before the top court.

The court ordered Pandey’s petition along with a similar petition on the aspect of paper leak brought by a group of NEET candidates be heard on July 8.

The 1,563 candidates who got grace marks complained that they did not get the stipulated 3 hours and 20 minutes to complete the examination. The NTA grievance committee looked into this aspect and identified the 1,563 candidates from six centres in Meghalaya, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Surat and Chandigarh.

In all 2.4 million students sat for the examination at 4,750 centres spread across 571 cities around the world.

This year’s NEET has been shrouded in controversy after allegations surfaced that in one centre in Rajasthan, students appearing for Hindi medium got question papers in English amid reports of torn OMR sheets and delay in distribution of question papers. A case was lodged in Patna over an alleged paper leak, after which the police arrested 13 people involved in solving question papers and supplying answers as part of a racket. The arrested people include four examinees.

The top court issued notice on a petition seeking cancellation of the NEET results on June 11. “The matter is not so simple. The sanctity has been affected and we need answers for that,” the top court said on Tuesday.

On June 8, the Centre constituted a four-member committee to examine the marks awarded for loss of time after petitions were filed in various high courts.

The vacation bench noted that the committee formed by the Centre held regular meetings from June 10 to 12 before arriving at the decision to offer retest to the affected 1,563 candidates. The order passed by court said, “This court finds that the recommendations made by the committee...are fair, reasonable and justified.”

A bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud is likely to hear the batch of cases on July 8. It was a bench headed by the CJI which issued notice on a petition filed by a candidate Vanshika Yadav on May 17, to which similar petitions have been tagged.

The parents of some of the erstwhile toppers were despondent. For instance, a 40-year-old woman from Jhajjar whose husband is a daily wage labourer said they barely earn enough to make ends meet.

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