NEET 2021 Cannot be Cancelled for Instances of Impersonation, Paper Leak: Supreme Court says no to re-exam
New Delhi: Opining that instances of impersonation and paper leakage cannot be reason enough for cancelling the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 examination, in which lakhs of candidates had appeared, the Supreme Court has dismissed a plea by a candidate who had sought a re-conduction of the exam claiming that there were instances of malpractices in the previous one.
Criticizing the petition for being 'adventurous' the top court bench comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai warned the petitioner of imposing costs and was quoted observing by Live Law, "Instances of impersonation and paper leakage cannot be to the detriment to the lakhs of students who have appeared for the exam."
"What kind of writs are filed under Article 32? Lakhs of people have taken these exams? When people come to you (advocate), don't you say that these will be dismissed with cost? You now want to cancel the entire exam? You argue, we'll deal with this at length and we'll deal with you specially," the bench was quoted saying by PTI as it was considering the petition by a 20-year-old petitioner.
NEET, the centralized medical entrance examination was held on September 12, this year and the examination was followed by news related to paper leak and impersonation. In fact, the Jaipur Police had nabbed a candidate for cheating in the exam and the invigilator for leaking the paper via Whatsapp.
Raising their voice against all these instances, the students had also approached the National Testing Agency (NTA) and had sought a re-conduction of the examination and a CBI probe in the alleged scams. Later, around several NEET candidates approached the Apex Court with the similar demands and prayed for a fresh exam.
"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," the plea stated.
"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," it further added.
To make their case, the counsel for the petitioners had placed reliance upon Apex Court's judgment in Tanvi Sarwal vs. Central Board of Secondary Education and Ors. (2015) 6 SCC 573 in which the top court had considered a similar situation for All India Pre-Medical/ Pre-Dental Entrance Test. At that time the top court had observed that the process of exam should be completely unblemished, credible and completely authentic.
As per the latest media report by Live Law, while considering the plea, Justice Rao expressed his disinclination for entertaining the plea and was quoted asking the petitioner's counsel, "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?"
At this outset, the counsel for the petitioner argued that already 5 FIRs have been filed in different parts of the country for reports of paper leakage and impersonation in the NEET exam. Pointing out that the CBI had also registered FIRs, he further submitted, "Even if one meritorious candidate is denied admission, that will be unfair. Kindly call a report from the NTA," as he added that the papers got leaked within 20 minutes of the commencement of the exams and solutions were also shared via Whatsapp.
Responding to this, Justice Rao was quoted saying by the daily, "We are not discounting the allegations. But how can 5 FIRs affect the exams taken by lakhs of students."
"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," the bench further observed.
Dismissing the petition, the bench observed, "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."
Although initially the bench proposed to dismiss the petition with Rs 5 lakh costs and directed that the amount be collected from the counsel for the petitioner for advising to file such a petition, the counsel requested the court to not impose the costs.
"Thats what we'll say costs may be collected from you. Why should the Petitioner pay? It is the lawyer who gives suggestions of filing such Petitions that under Article 32," the bench was quoted saying by Bar and Bench.
However, when the counsel further prayed before the court for dismissal of costs, the bench observed, "Costs will not be imposed but we'll remember you, next time there is such a case,we'll definitely impose costs on you."
Live Law adds that another petition has been filed before the top court seeking cancellation of the NEET-UG 2021 examination and the petition alleged conspiracy on the part of certain coaching centers for leaking the paper.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that alleging instances of cheating, malpractices, impersonation, and paper leak in the recently conducted NEET-UG exam, several candidates had recently approached the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of the test, and conduction of a re-exam.
The petitioners had also sought directions upon the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the Director-General of Police of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for submitting a fact-finding report before the top court within a week along with relevant documents and findings.
Contending that the FIR filed by CBI clearly proves that the NEET UG 2021 exam paper was leaked under a criminal conspiracy and several solvers gangs and coaching centers were involved in it, the plea further stated that the initial investigation established the fact that the medical entrance exam was irreversibly vitiated by use of fraudulent means and unfair practices.
Thus the plea had sought directions upon Ministry of Education, NTA, and NMC to enhance the security protocols, an affidavit from NTA explaining why the examination shouldn't be cancelled, and directions upon CBI and Police for submitting a fact-finding report before the Supreme Court of India within a week with all relevant information and documents as well as the findings.