Leak in NEET clear, no room for denial, says SC

The Supreme Court on Monday said that there was no doubt that there was a breach in the sanctity of NEET-UG 2024, and that it was important to determine whether it was systemic or localised so as to decide whether to order a re-conduct of the exam or to find ways to segregate the wrongdoers to avoid the loss of resources and potential setbacks to the careers of nearly 2.4 million students who appeared for the exam on May 5.

“One thing is very clear that the leak has taken place. The fact that the sanctity of the exam has been compromised is beyond question. The only question is how widespread is the leak…Let us not be in self-denial because self-denial is only adding to the problem…everyone knows there was a leak,” commented a bench led by chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, even as the uncertainty surrounding the examination’s validity and potential retest keeps millions of candidates on tenterhooks, with their career prospects hanging in the balance.

As the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra deferred to July 11 a clutch of petitions demanding the re-conduct of NEET-UG 2024 because of paper leaks and other malpractices, the court grilled the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) , raising crucial questions regarding the extent of the breach and the potential impact on millions of students.

“We need to find out if sanctity of the exam is lost or if we are able to identify tainted candidates. If the sanctity of the exam is lost, we order a retest…If you can’t distinguish chaff from the grain. We don’t live in an ideal world, but before we take a decision on the retest, we must remain conscious that we are dealing with lives and careers of over 23 lakh students…cancellation of an exam of this nature is a matter of extreme last resort,” said the bench, adding the law-enforcement ought to be “ruthless” with the wrongdoers.

The bench outlined settled parameters for deciding whether a retest is necessary, which included ascertaining if the breach occurred at a systemic level; if the breach affected the overall integrity of the examination process; and the possibility of identifying and segregating the beneficiaries of the fraud from the untainted students.