No Revision of NEET 2021 Answer Key: High Court junks plea
Ernakulam: Observing that the in academic matters experts are the best judges, the Kerala High Court has recently dismissed the petition by a NEET aspirant, who had challenged the answer key of a specific question and claimed that the answer key and the marks awarded to him should be revised. However dismissing the plea, the Kerala HC bench comprising of Justice N. Nagaresh noted, "It...
Ernakulam: Observing that the in academic matters experts are the best judges, the Kerala High Court has recently dismissed the petition by a NEET aspirant, who had challenged the answer key of a specific question and claimed that the answer key and the marks awarded to him should be revised.
However dismissing the plea, the Kerala HC bench comprising of Justice N. Nagaresh noted, "It is a settled proposition of law that in academic matters the academicians and academic bodies are the experts. This will be especially so when the examinations are related to admission to higher professional courses. It will be highly improper for the courts to go into the correctness of the answers contained in the Answer Key, unless of course the answers are glaring mistakes. Experts are the best judges in such matters."
The petitioner is a medical aspirant, who has scored 695 out of 720 in the NEET 2021 examination. He challenged the correct answer of Question No. 184 as mentioned in the Final Answer Key.
The said question and its options are as follows:
"184. Veneral (sic) diseases can spread through:
(a) Using Sterile Needles
(b) Transfusion of blood from infected person
(c) Infected Mother to Foetus
Choose the correct answer from the options given below:
(1) (b) and (c) only
(2) (a) and (c) only
(3) (a), (b) and (c) only
(4) (b), (c) and (d) only"
When the National Testing Agency released the Answer Key, the answer to Question No 184 was given as Option No 1, meaning Veneral diseases can spread only through Transfusion of blood from infected person, and infected mother to foetus.
However, petitioner argued that it can spread through Kissing as well and marked Option 4 as the correct answer. After NTA released its answer key, the student claimed that the answer key was wrong and challenged the same by paying the requisite fees. Following this, the challenge made by the petitioner student was rejected by NTA.
Afterward, the petitioner approached the High Court and challenged the answer key. He also contended that his rank would be far better if the Answer Key is corrected for Question No. 184.
The petitioner further pointed out that paragraph 13.2.3 of the Information Bulletin makes it incumbent on the NTA to verify a challenge made by a candidate to the Provisional Answer Key with the help of a panel of experts. However, claiming that this hasn't been done by NTA, the petitioner argued that this has resulted in grave miscarriage of justice.
He claimed that the stand of NTA that Option No.1 to the Question No.184 is the correct answer, is ex-facie erroneous. As per the petitioner, saying that veneral diseases can spread only by 'transfusion of blood from infected person' and through 'infected mother to foetus' and not by 'kissing', is clearly at variance with even the rudimentary text books on venereal diseases.
To support his argument, the petitioner student referred to several text book references and contended that "kissing" should also be accepted as a mode of transmission of venereal diseases and urged that the exclusion of 'kissing' as a mode of infection of sexually transmitted diseases in the Answer Key, is unacceptable and misleading.
On the other hand, contesting the petition, NTA stated that the question for NEET (UG) are framed by the concerned Subject Experts. They are then finalised by the Subject Experts and Answer Keys are framed. After the conduct of examination and before application of the keys, the keys are once again verified by the Subject Experts. Thereafter, the questions along with the respective answer keys (as provisional) and the OMR/ answer sheets of the candidates are uploaded/displayed on the website. The candidates are given option to challenge any of the questions. The challenges/objections received are then again placed before the respective Subject Experts.
Mentioning that in the case of NEET UG 2021, 4070 challenges were received 443 challenges in particular, were received in respect of Question No. 184, NTA further submitted before the Court that the Subject Experts concerned went through the challenges and objections and considered each and every aspect of the challenges.
After considering the challenges the experts opined that there was no change in the provisional answer keys to Question No.184.
At this outset, NTA pointed out that Kissing by itself need not cause any infection, in the absence of the involvement of an infectious person. It is only when kissing is made by an infected person that a venereal diseases can spread. Therefore since the option at (b) and (c) were specific and clear, that such infection can be only though an infected person, the option No.(d) kissing need not necessarily be a cause of infection by itself. It is in that context that the Subject Experts decided that Option No.1 is the correct answer.
The counsel for NTA further argued that the onus is on the candidate to not only demonstrate that the key answer is incorrect but also that it is a glaring mistake which is totally apparent and no inferential process or reasoning is required to show that the key answer is wrong.
After listening to the contentions and going through the answers given to Question No. 184, the Court noted, "it is evident that answer option No. (b) states that venereal diseases can spread though transfusion of blood from infected persons. Answer option (c) provides that venereal diseases can spread through infected mother to foetus. At the same time, answer No.(d) does not indicate that the intended kissing is by an infected person. The stand of the respondents is that unless the kissing is by an infected person, there is no likelihood of spread of venereal diseases."
"When the answer options given by the respondents at (b) and (c) are clear and specific, the approach of the students gains importance. When two of the answers indicate existence of an infected person to spread venereal disease, the other options at (a), (d) and (e) does not speak of any infected person," further noted the court.
Opining that the reasoning given by the NTA on the basis of Subject Experts is convincing, the court noted, "The approach and sharpness of the students answering questions in a competitive examination for admission to a high professional Degree Course, is important. This Court finds that the reasoning given by the respondents which is based on the opinion of Subject Experts, to conclude that Sl.No. (1), (b) and (c) is the correct answer, is convincing."
Referring to the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Ran Vijay Singh and others (supra), the bench noted, "In the present case, taking into consideration the explanation given by the respondents, it cannot be said that the answer given in the answer key is incorrect or is a glaring mistake."
"It is a settled proposition of law that in academic matters the academicians and academic bodies are the experts. This will be especially so when the examinations are related to admission to higher professional courses. It will be highly improper for the courts to go into the correctness of the answers contained in the Answer Key, unless of course the answers are glaring mistakes. Experts are the best judges in such matters," further read the judgment.
Dismissing the petition, the court noted, "In the circumstances, this Court find no reason to interfere in the matter and grant relief to the petitioner. The writ petition is therefore dismissed."
To read the court order, click on the link below.
Barsha completed her MA from the University of Burdwan, West Bengal in 2018. Having a knack for Journalism she joined Medical Dialogues back in 2020. She mainly covers news about medico legal cases, NMC/DCI updates, medical education issues including the latest updates about medical and dental colleges in India. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.