Explained: The allegations of scam surrounding NEET UG 2024 (2024)

National Testing Agency (NTA) director general Subodh Kumar Singh announced on Saturday, June 8, that the Education Ministry has set up a panel to re-examine results of over 1,563 students who were awarded grace marks in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, Undergraduate (NEET UG) 2024. The panel would review the results and submit a report within a week, he said.

Ever since the NTA announced the results for NEET UG on June 4, the institute and the exam have been shrouded in controversy. Aspirants, parents, and several politicians have termed the multiple discrepancies surrounding the exam an elaborate scam, specifically raising concerns about the alleged question paper leaks and the NTA’s decision to award ‘grace marks’ to a segment of students. Let’s take a closer look at the events that have unfolded so far.

Grace marks for ‘loss of time’

Around 1,563 students were awarded grace marks after students filed representations in High Courts including in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, claiming that they lost out on time due to various issues in the centre, including a case of the wrong question papers having been distributed. The NTA said that a committee devised a formula that was approved by the Supreme Court in a judgement in 2018 to address this issue, and that accordingly, grace marks were awarded to the candidates from affected centres.

Aspirants have since alleged that 100s of marks were awarded as grace marks but the NTA has dismissed these claims. But director general Subodh Kumar Singh has maintained that the awarding of grace marks has not impacted the qualifying criteria of the exam, and that the review of results of the affected candidates will not impact the admission process.

Alleged question paper leak

Media reports had also alleged that before the test commenced on May 5, the NEET UG question paper had been leaked at some exam centres. A Times of India said that at least three such instances were reported and the police have registered cases. One of the cases was probed by the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of the Bihar police, who found that . Up to 13 people, including parents and aspirants, were arrested by the EOU in Bihar.

Activists have been saying the NTA should not have declared the results, since students didn’t have a level playing field due to such complaints. However, the NTA has maintained that all claims of alleged paper leaks were baseless, stating that each question paper was accounted for.

But there arose further cause for suspicion as eight students, reportedly from the same exam centre in Jhajjar Haryana, scored 720/720 and were ranked among the 67 students who bagged the perfect score.

Inaccurate answer key

Another controversy surrounding the exam was that the answer key was incorrect. For one question in the subject of Physics, aspirants claimed that two of the given options were correct answers. Around 13,000 students have challenged the answer key for that question, since several students skipped the question because there were two possible answers and lost four marks. It may be noted that since the exam has negative marking, a wrong answer would cost them five marks, while skipping a question will cost them only four marks.

Several aspirants pointed out that the students who attempted the question, and chose one of the two right options, were awarded five grace marks as against those who saw the possibility of both the answers being right and skipped them with the hope of saving one mark. They have since demanded that the NTA omit that question for evaluation or award grace marks to all those who appeared for the examination to regulate the competition.

It may be noted that out of the students who received perfect scores, 44 students had secured the score as they had attempted the Physics question and were hence, awarded grace marks.

Court cases

Some aspirants have also moved multiple courts in India regarding the alleged scam. On June 1, a petition was in the Supreme Court seeking the court to direct the NTA to conduct the examination again.

The Calcutta High Court, on June 7, ordered the NTA to file a response within 10 days in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) alleging various irregularities in the NEET UG 2024 examination. A division bench presided over by Justice Apurba Sinha Ray also asked the NTA to disclose in its affidavit the details of how the reservation policies of the State as well as the Union government have been followed while preparing the merit list. Posting the matter for further hearing after two weeks, the HC ordered the NTA to preserve the records pertaining to the NEET UG 2024 examination until further orders.

Further, the Delhi High Court, on June 7, also sought the response of NTA in a petition that challenged the award of grace marks to candidates for one of the questions in the exam. The HC sought the court to direct NTA to award equal marks to all those who did not attempt the question.

Politicians demand probe

Responding to the controversies, Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that the “Modi government is directly responsible for this,” and demanded a high-level investigation into the matter.

“Paper leaks, rigging, and corruption have become an integral part of many examinations including NEET. The Modi government is directly responsible for this. For the candidates, appearing in the recruitment exams, then facing several irregularities, getting caught in the labyrinth of paper leaks, is playing with their future. BJP has cheated the youth of the country. We demand that a high-level investigation should be conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court so that our talented students appearing in NEET and other exams get justice,” he said.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called the alleged scam “completely unacceptable” and unforgivable. “This is a direct gamble with the future of lakhs of candidates of the country, which should be immediately investigated at a high level under the supervision of the Supreme Court. This year, there was news of a paper leak in it, which was suppressed. Now many candidates of the medical entrance exam NEET have alleged that the marks of the students have been increased. Students say that this time a record 67 candidates have secured top ranks and six of these candidates are said to be from the same examination centre. The question is how did the students get cheated, who did it, and why was this result deliberately declared on June 4 amidst the noise of election results, when it was supposed to be declared on June 14?” he asked.

The Congress leader also questioned how up to 67 students scored 100%. “After the uproar, the NTA has given a clarification. But this clarification is being termed as very superficial and unreliable by the affected students. In such a situation, it is very important to restore the faith of students in the purity of this examination, which is possible only through fair and transparent investigation,” he added.

Senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi also said that the allegations raised were serious, questioning if it was not the government’s responsibility to investigate and resolve the complaints. “First the NEET exam paper was leaked and now students are alleging that there has been a scam in its results as well. Serious questions are being raised over six students from the same centre getting 720 out of 720 marks and many kinds of irregularities are coming to light. On the other hand, there are reports of many children dying by suicide across the country after the results were announced. This is very sad and shocking. Why is the government ignoring the voice of lakhs of students? Students want answers to legitimate questions related to the rigging in the NEET exam results,” she said.

Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also questioned the Union government and the NTA. “The NEET exam was conducted on May 5, 2024 as scheduled and the result was to be declared on June 14, 2024. But suddenly the result was announced on June 4, 2024. On the same day, the results of the country's Parliamentary elections came and the entire country was busy with it. Was the NEET result released in haste amid this commotion to cover up examination irregularities? If not, why did the government release the result in haste?” he asked, tagging Narendra Modi in his post.

He further demanded a proper investigation into the exam’s malpractice before the “aggrieved young aspirants lose their lives.”

Tamil Nadu’s Health Minister Ma Subramanian, of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said on June 7 that senior officials in the state are planning to move court against the NTA. Ma Subramanian pointed out that even students with a score of 650/720 might not get admitted to medical colleges this year due to the NTA’s “arbitrary decision to award grace marks” and cause “widespread irregularities.” He added that he will take the matter up with the state’s Chief Minister MK Stalin along with subject experts to decide the course of action.

Explained: The allegations of scam surrounding NEET UG 2024 (2024)
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