BREAKING : Supreme Court Dismisses Plea To Cancel NEET-UG 2021 Over Alleged Malpractices; Says “Lakhs Of Students Can’t Be Made To Suffer”

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The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking cancellation of the NEET-UG2021 exam held on September 12, 2021 and conduct of fresh exams for NEET-UG in the wake of allegations about widespread use of malpractices and paper leak.

“Instances of impersonation and paper leakage cannot be to the detriment to the lakhs of students who have appeared for the exam”, the Supreme Court observed while dismissing the petition.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai heard the petition Saloni v. National Testing Agency and others. The petitioner alleged that the National Eligibility and Entrance Test-UG 2021 (NEET-2021) has been “irreversibly vitiated” by use of unfair means & malpractices through electronic gadgets, devices and facilitation through other illegal and unfair means.At the outset itself, Justice Rao expressed disinclination to entertain the petition.

“What sort of writ petitions are filed? Lakhs of students have taken the exam? You want the entire exam be cancelled? When the client approached you, you never considered that the petition will be dismissed with costs?”, Justice Rao asked the petitioner’s counsel.

The counsel submitted that already 5 FIRs have been filed in different parts of the country over the reports of paper leakage and impersonation in the NEET exam. The CBI has also registered FIRs, he said.

“Even if one meritorious candidate is denied admission, that will be unfair. Kindly call a report from the NTA”, the counsel submitted. He added that papers were leaked within 20 minutes of the starting of exams and solutions were shared in Whatsapp.

“We are not discounting the allegations. But how can 5 FIRs affect the exams taken by lakhs of students”, Justice Rao asked.

“You know that the court will not cancel the exam in which 7.5 lakh people have taken the exam. This exam was conducted nationally & not locally”, Justice Rao told the counsel.

The bench initially proposed to dismiss the writ petition with Rs 5 lakhs costs, but later omitted the costs considering the counsel’s request.

“The petitioner seeks setting aside the NEET UG Exam & direct NTA to conduct the exam afresh. The basis is that CBI has registered 3 FIR’s wherein it has stated that there has been impersonation of the candidates. The Counsel submits that there have been reports in the press of NEET 2021 papers being leaked and the same was not conducted in fair & transparent manner. Instances of impersonation and paper leakage cannot be to the detriment to the lakhs of students who have appeared for the exam”, the bench stated in the order dismissing the writ petition.

Details of the petition

Filed through Advocate Ninad Dogra, the petition stated that the NEET UG 2021 which was conducted by the National Testing Agency on September 12, 2021 was blemished and tainted with fraudulent and unlawful acts.

“During the conduct of NEET-2021 UG it has come in knowledge that unfair means such as leak of papers or using proxy candidates in place of actual students/candidates happened brazenly. So much so several FIRs have also been registered for such unlawful acts. Even the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a FIR against owner of an institution in Nagpur, Maharashtra, where proxy candidates were being used for enabling actual students to qualify the entrance examination. The use of such illegal and unlawful means has not only cheated the system and its component but it has also played a big fraud with the lives and future of millions of students who made genuine and sincere efforts for preparation of the exam, who however, have been prejudiced by such large-scale fraud and cheating,” petition states.

The petitioner has further averred that NEET-2021 as well as admission process has turned into a lucrative commercial business where educational and coaching centres indulge in cheating and unfair means to benefit a few individuals by either leaking the paper or using proxy students or other illegal means.

“In the said process sincere students such as the Petitioner are made to suffer without any fault or wrong doing of their own. It seems for a sum of Rs. 50 lacs per students efforts are made to use unlawful and illegal means in such entrance examination thus prejudicing the sincere students,” petition further states.

To substantiate their contention reliance has been placed on the Top Court’s judgement in Tanvi Sarwal vs. Central Board of Secondary Education and Ors. (2015) 6 SCC 573 in which the Court while considering a similar situation qua All India Pre-Medical /Pre-Dental Entrance Test for Academic Session 2015-2016 (conducted by CBSE) held that the examination process shall be completely unblemished, credible and completely authentic.

It may be noted that another petition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of NEET-UG 2021 in the wake of reports about widespread paper leak(Vishwanath Kumar & ors vs National Testing Agency & ors). That petition alleged conspiracy on the part of certain coaching centres in leaking the NEET-UG paper.
Case Title: Saloni v National Testing Agency and Others| WP(C) 1083/2021

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