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NEET-UG: Counselling Process to Begin Next Week, “No Injustice to Any Student:” Minister

NEET-UG: Counselling Process to Begin Next Week, “No Injustice to Any Student:” Minister

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, July 11: Even as the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that the counselling process for the admissions for undergraduate medical courses based on the controversy-hit National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) would be conducted in four rounds beginning from the third week of July, the union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan assured both the pro and anti-re-test group students that no injustice would be done to either sides.

Assuring the apex court that beginning of the counselling process would not cause any injustice to any student, the government told the apex court that the candidature of any student could be cancelled at any stage if found to beneficiary of any malpractices during the counselling process or even afterwards, the Union Government through the Higher Education department of the Ministry of Education said in a 44-page affidavit. The Supreme Court later deferred the hearing on the May 5 NEET-UG Test hearings on July 18.

Mr Pradhan jointly met the students from both the sides, those seeking a retest for NEET-UG and those opposed to it amid the alleged irregularities in the exam, and heard their concerns.

Sources said during the 30-minute meeting, Mr Pradhan assured the students that injustice would not be allowed to happen to them under any circumstances and that the government was taking a series of steps to ensure that such irregularities do not take place in future exams.

While some students told the minister that it would be unfair to penalise people who have not indulged in cheating of any sort by asking them to sit for a retest, others said the irregularities were widespread enough to necessitate one.

The government has banked on a data analytics report of IIT (Madras) counted out “mass malpractice” in the exam, which has come under a spate of allegations of question paper leaks, impersonation and other illegalities.

In its affidavit, the Centre said the data analysis was carried out by experts from IIT Madras. The data revealed that there is an overall increase in the marks obtained by students, specifically in the range of 550 to 720, and this rise has been seen across cities and centres. The Centre said the increase can be attributed to a 25% reduction in syllabus.

The Supreme Court had said in its July 8 order that a considered decision at the policy level would have to be taken by the government on the status of the counselling if NTA and the Centre were to undertake an exercise to identify any further beneficiaries of the question paper leakage.

The CBI, which is investigating the NEET-UG paper leakage, has already made several arrests. Counselling for the undergraduate medical seats across the seats is conducted by the Medical Counselling Committee constituted under the Ministry of Health for the all India quota. The counselling process for State quota seats is undertaken by the respective State counselling authorities. Allocation of seats would depend on the timing of the cancellation of seats if certain candidates are found to be beneficiaries of malpractices.

Candidates are allowed to change seats in the first and second rounds of counselling as per options exercised by them. Cancellation would not have any impact on the overall counselling process and allocation of seats if done before the third round, which is expected to start in the second week of September.

If candidature is cancelled after the third round, the vacant seats could still be offered in the subsequent round. Candidates who have already been allocated seats in the earlier rounds would not be able to participate in the subsequent round, the government explained.

Though, usually, the counselling process covers a total of four rounds, if the candidature of any candidate is cancelled after the conclusion of four rounds, the vacated seats could be put up for additional rounds of counselling, the Centre submitted.

The education minister told the students that since the matter was now being heard by the Supreme Court, the government would take further action based on its decision. He said the Education Ministry has presented its side before the court and it was now up to the judges to decide.

In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the Centre said a comprehensive analysis of the results had revealed that there was no large-scale malpractice or evidence of a local set of candidates benefiting.

The Union government also reiterated its stance that it did not intend to hold a retest of the medical entrance exam. Doing so on the basis of “unsubstantiated suspicions,” it said, would burden nearly 24 lakh students.

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday arrested the alleged kingpin of the Bihar NEET-UG case from Patna. The accused was presented before the CBI’s competent court and has been remanded to CBI custody for 10 days.

The central agency further searched four locations linked to Rakesh Ranjan alias Rocky, including Patna and Kolkata. According to sources, incriminating documents were also seized during the searches. Advanced techniques were employed by the CBI to trace Rakesh (Rocky) through his IP address and email address.

On Wednesday, two people, including a candidate, was arrested by the CBI from Patna in connection with the alleged NEET-UG paper leak. On June 27, the CBI made its first arrests in the NEET-UG paper leak case and detained two men from Bihar. The two accused, identified as Manish Prakash and Ashutosh Kumar, were arrested from Patna.

Reportedly, Ashutosh is accused of providing premises where NEET aspirants studied the leaked question paper, while Manish allegedly arranged the paper.

The NEET-UG 2024 was conducted on May 5 for 23.33 lakh students at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including in 14 cities overseas. The results were released on June 4 but soon owing to a large number of toppers, reports of a paper leak surfaced on social media. The case is currently under investigation by the CBI.


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