Much-anticipated hearing in SC on pleas related to NEET-UG 2024 deferred to July 18

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NEET-UG 2024 Supreme Court

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned till July 18 the hearing of a clutch of petitions seeking cancellation, re-test and probe into alleged malpractices in the conduct of NEET-UG 2024 as the responses of the Centre and the National Testing Agency (NTA) were yet to be received by some parties.

Amid the festering row over the all-India examination, the top court noted that separate affidavits filed on Wednesday by the Centre and the NTA, which conducts the test, have not been received by counsel for some of the petitioners.

"The further hearing shall be on Thursday (July 18)," a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, however, said they have served their affidavit to the counsel for the parties.

During the brief hearing, counsel for the petitioners sought listing of the pleas on July 15 but Mehta said he would be unavailable that day. The bench said it has received a status report from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the progress made in the probe into alleged irregularities in the conduct of NEET-UG 2024.

In an additional affidavit filed in the apex court on Wednesday, the Centre said data analytics of the results of NEET-UG 2024 was conducted by IIT Madras which found there was neither any indication of "mass malpractice" nor a localised set of candidates benefiting from it and scoring abnormally high marks.

The government's assertion assumes significance in view of the observations made by the top court on July 8 that it may order a re-test if there were large-scale malpractices in holding the exam on May 5.

The Centre's fresh affidavit said experts from IIT Madras have found that the marks distribution follows the bell-shaped curve that is witnessed in any large-scale examination indicating no abnormality. A bell curve describes the shape of data conforming to a normal distribution.

The affidavit said for 2024-25, the counselling process for undergraduate seats will be conducted in four rounds starting from the third week of July.

The NTA also filed a separate additional affidavit on the similar lines and said it has carried out an analysis of distribution of marks at the national, state and city level.

"This analysis indicates that the distribution of marks is quite normal and there seems to be no extraneous factor, which would influence the distribution of marks," the NTA said in its affidavit, which also gave details of the system in place for ensuring confidential printing of question papers, their transportation and distribution.

While hearing the pleas on July 8, the top court had observed that the sanctity of the NEET-UG 2024 has been "breached".

Saying that a re-test may be ordered if the entire process was affected, the bench had sought details from the NTA and the CBI, including the timing and manner of the alleged paper leak, besides the number of wrongdoers to understand the extent of irregularities claimed by the petitioners.

The top court is hearing a batch of pleas related to NEET-UG 2024, including those alleging irregularities and malpractices, and seeking a direction to conduct it afresh.

Over 23.33 lakh students had taken the test on May 5 at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including in 14 cities overseas.

The Centre and the NTA, in their earlier affidavits filed in the apex court, had said that scrapping the exam would be "counterproductive" and "seriously jeopardise" lakhs of honest candidates in the absence of any proof of large-scale breach of confidentiality.

The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG) is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.