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SC refuses to defer counselling on NEET-UG row, issues notices on plea to cancel May 5 exam

Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, JUNE 21: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to defer the counselling for the controversy-ridden NEET-UG 2024 examination scheduled to kick off on July 6, saying it is not an “open and shut” process.
The apex Court issued notices to the National Testing Agency (NTA), the Centre and others on a petition seeking cancellation of the exam over alleged irregularities in holding it on May 5.
A Vacation Bench of Justices Vikram Nath and SVN Bhatti posted the matter for hearing on July 8 along with other pending pleas alleging irregularities in conduct of the examination.
The Counsel appearing for the petitioners urged the Bench that the counselling process may be paused for 2 days as the apex Court is scheduled to hear all these pleas on July 8.
“I am not seeking any stay of counselling. I am only praying that the counselling which is scheduled to be held on July 6 may be paused for 2 days only. The reason being that the main matter is listed on July 8”, the lawyer argued.
The Bench observed, “We have been hearing the same statement. Don’t think otherwise for interrupting you. Counselling does not mean open and shut. It is a process. That process commences on July 6.” When the Bench asked about the duration of the first round of counselling, one of the lawyers appearing in the matter said it will last around a week.
The Bench, which refused to defer the counselling process, said that Counsel appearing for the NTA, the Centre and other respondents may file their response to the plea within 2 weeks.
The Bench also dealt with a separate application seeking certain directions to the NTA.
The Counsel appearing for the applicant raised the issue of re-test, which is to be conducted on June 23, and alleged that the NTA has withheld some material information. The Bench then asked the NTA’s Counsel to file a response to the application and posted it for hearing on July 8.
On June 13, the Centre had told the apex Court that the decision to give grace marks to 1,563 NEET-UG 2024 candidates for admission to MBBS, BDS and others courses has been cancelled and they will be given an option to take a re-test on June 23.
During the hearing on Friday, the applicant’s Counsel raised the issue of re-test and said candidates will undergo the stress of giving the examination afresh.
“Everything can be set aside when there is a chance of setting aside of the May 5 main examination”, the Bench observed.
“Are you worried about them or are you worried about the other candidates who are not being allowed to take the examination?” the Bench asked the Counsel.
“What is this argument?” the Bench said.
The apex Court also dealt with a separate petition seeking a direction to the NTA to allow a candidate, who is suffering from a medical condition, to appear in the re-test.
The Counsel for the petitioner said even before the decision was taken to allow 1,563 candidates to appear in the re-test, the petitioner had sent a representation to the NTA to allow him to take the re-examination. He said the petitioner had also filed a writ petition before the Telangana High Court. “He (petitioner) had filed a writ petition before the High Court. There also NTA gave a statement that they would decide the representation by the evening and his petition was allowed to be dismissed as withdrawn on that ground”, the Bench told the NTA’s Counsel.
It said the petitioner has not received any response from NTA on his representation till today morning.
The apex Court asked the NTA to take a decision on the representation by 4 p.m. today and communicate the same to the petitioner by e-mail.
The Bench, which issued notices to the NTA and others seeking their responses on the plea, also posted it for hearing on July 8.
While hearing separate pleas on the NEET (Undergraduate)-2024 examination, the apex Court had on June 18 said even if there was “0.001% negligence” on the part of anyone in the conduct of the examination, it should be thoroughly dealt with.
The examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates took it. The results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4, apparently because the evaluation of the answer sheets got completed earlier.
The allegations have led to protests in several cities and sparring between rival political parties.
As many as 67 students scored a perfect 720, unprecedented in the NTA’s history, with 6 from a centre in Haryana’s Faridabad figuring in the list, raising suspicions about irregularities. It has been alleged that grace marks contributed to 67 students sharing the top rank.
The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in Government and private institutions across the country.
(PTI)

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