22 Jun 2024

What Dharmendra Pradhan Said About Decision Not to Cancel UGC NEET-2024 Exam Amid Paper Leak Probe

New Delhi: The government has decided not to cancel the UGC NEET-2024 medical entrance examination despite a significant controversy and an ongoing investigation into allegations of a paper leak a day before the exam. Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan explained that the leak affected only a limited number of students, unlike previous instances in 2004 and 2015 where more extensive leaks necessitated exam cancellations. Pradhan emphasized that cancelling the exam would unjustly impact hundreds of thousands of students who legitimately cleared it.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing the case, and Pradhan stated that any final decision from the court will be binding. The controversy intensified after 67 students scored a perfect 720 in the NEET-UG exam. The National Testing Agency (NTA) clarified that grace marks were awarded to some students due to an error in a question and delays in candidates receiving their question papers.

Approximately 24 lakh students participated in the NEET-UG 2024 examination for undergraduate medical programs, administered by the NTA on May 5. Results were released ahead of schedule on June 4. However, allegations of a paper leak and the awarding of grace marks to over 1,500 students sparked widespread protests and legal actions, including cases filed in various courts, with the Supreme Court sharply criticizing the NTA's handling of the situation.

Leak was localized with only a few students from Bihar benefitting

The Centre maintained that the exam should not be canceled, asserting that the leak was localized, with only a few students from Bihar benefitting. A student and three other accused have been arrested and are being questioned in Bihar. Pradhan described the leak of the UGC-NEET exam's question paper as an "institutional failure" of the NTA. He announced that the government would form a high-level panel to review the agency's functioning but saw no need to cancel the exam.

"It is unfair to jeopardize the careers of candidates who rightfully passed the exam due to isolated incidents of malpractice," Pradhan said at a press conference in New Delhi. He assured that the government is in constant communication with the Bihar Police and has requested a report from them. 

"Once we have the report, we will decide on the future course of action. I take full responsibility, and we will rectify anomalies in the system. Let us have faith in our systems; no irregularities or malpractices will be tolerated by the government," he added.

Pradhan also urged opposition parties not to politicize the issue and promised strict action against those found guilty, including "top" NTA officials. The Ministry of Education has expedited its response, addressing concerns over grace marks and affirming that these have been appropriately managed.

The outcome of the Supreme Court hearing will ultimately determine any further actions regarding the controversy.

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