NTA’s NEET Mess: ‘Graced’ Candidates Reappear, Probing CBI Team Attacked

   

SRINAGAR: After the National Testing Agency (NTA), the sole authority for conducting a basket of examinations for professional and routine degrees, compromised its mandate, the CBI has been tasked to investigate the NEET examination case. Interesting stories are unfolding on an hourly basis in this case as it involves the careers of nearly 24 lakh candidates across the country.

Follow Us OnG-News | Whatsapp

NTA’s inability to manage the examination professionally has already led to the sacking of its boss and the postponement of several examinations in recent days. NEET-PG examination was cancelled at the last moment. The news had not reached hundreds of students, some of whom travelled hundreds of kilometres to appear in the text.

The major developments that took place on NEET include:

Retest for ‘Privileged’

As many as 813 of the 1,563 candidates who were earlier awarded grace marks in NEET-UG appeared for a retest on Sunday, officials said.

The retest was conducted at seven centres following an order from the Supreme Court. The grace marks were awarded to make up for the loss of time at six centres where the examination started late on May 5.

“At least 52 per cent — 813 out of 1,563 candidates — appeared for the retest on Sunday,” a senior National Testing Agency (NTA) official said.

Amid a raging row over alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam, the NTA on Sunday debarred 17 candidates who had appeared for the exam on May 5 at centres in Bihar. The agency had earlier debarred 63 candidates for adopting unfair means in the exam. On Saturday, 30 additional candidates from Gujarat’s Godhara were also debarred.

FIR Registered

The federal investigator CBI filed an FIR on Sunday in connection with alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG held on May 5 on a reference from the Union education ministry, amid countrywide protests and litigation by students for a probe into paper leak claims.

Officials said the ministry alleged in a complaint, now part of the FIR, to the agency that “certain isolated incidents” occurred in a few states during the conduct of the examination.

Giving top priority to the case, the CBI has formed special teams to visit Godhra and Patna, where cases of question paper leaks have been registered by police, they said. The agency plans to take over the investigation of these cases registered by the police in Gujarat and Bihar, they added.

The CBI action came a day after the ministry announced it would hand over the probe into the alleged irregularities to the central agency, a demand raised by a section of protesting students.

CBI

“The Ministry of Education has requested the CBI to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the entire gamut of alleged irregularities, including conspiracy, cheating, impersonation, breach of trust and destruction of evidence by candidates, institutes and middlemen,” a CBI spokesperson said.

The role of public servants, if any, connected with the conduct of the examination and also into the entire gamut of events, and the larger conspiracy will also be under the scanner, according to the officials.

They said the agency registered a fresh case against unidentified persons under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) among others.

“Certain cases of alleged irregularities, cheating, impersonation and malpractice have been reported in NEET-UG which was conducted on May 5,” a senior education ministry official said on Saturday.

“For transparency in the conduct of the examination process, it was decided after a review that the matter be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a comprehensive investigation,” the official had said.

The allegations of irregularities sparked protests in several cities, litigation and a political slugfest, with the opposition accusing the government of toying with the future of students.

Ten aspirants have approached the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the CBI and the ED to investigate the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG.

The petition has also sought a direction to the Bihar Police to expedite the investigation in the case and file a report before the apex court.

In a separate matter, the Supreme Court sought responses from the Center, the NTA and others on various petitions, including those seeking cancellation of the NEET-UG 2024 exam and a court-monitored investigation.

The Supreme Court also halted proceedings on similar petitions in various high courts.

Controversial Examination

The examination was conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on May 5 at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including 14 cities abroad. Over 23 lakh candidates took the test.

As many as 67 students scored a perfect 720, unprecedented in the NTA’s history, with six from a centre in Haryana’s Faridabad figuring in the list, raising suspicions about irregularities.

There was also a controversy over grace marks awarded to students to make up for the loss of time at six centres. The Centre later told the apex court that the grace marks were being scrapped and these 1,563 students would be given an option of a retest.

The NEET-UG examination is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

Facing flak over alleged discrepancies in competitive exams, the Centre on Saturday shunted out NTA Director General Subodh Singh and set up a seven-member panel headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan to review the agency’s functioning and recommend exam reforms.

It postponed the NEET-PG entrance, the fourth entrance exam to be impacted in recent days.

NEET-UG Mess

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Choudhary on Sunday said an inquiry is underway on various aspects of the alleged paper leak in the NEET exam and the guilty will be jailed.

Bihar Police’s Economic Offences Unit last month arrested 13 people, including prime suspect Sikandar Yadavendu, in connection with the alleged paper leak in the NEET-UG 2024 exam conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Bihar Police had also detained six people from Jharkhand’s Deoghar district in connection with the case.

“An inquiry is underway. Who are the people involved in this? How did they commit irregularities? All will be jailed after filing FIR,” Choudhary told reporters in Gwalior when asked about the progress of the investigation.

It is suspected that nine aspirants, including four from Bihar who have already been arrested by the EOU, allegedly received the question paper and answers at a ‘safe house’ near Patna a day before it was conducted on May 5, sources had said.

More Arrests

The Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of Bihar Police stepped up its investigation into the NEET “paper leak” by arresting five more suspects on Sunday, a day after their detention in Jharkhand’s Deoghar, taking the total number of those apprehended to 18.

The development comes on a day the CBI filed an FIR in connection with alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG held on May 5 on a reference from the Union education ministry, amid countrywide protests and litigation by students for a probe into paper leak claims.

According to a statement by the EOU, the five arrested persons have been identified as Baldev Kumar, Mukesh Kumar, Panku Kumar, Rajeev Kumar and Paramjeet Singh, all hailing from Nalanda.

Baldev Kumar, associated with the notorious Sanjeev Kumar alias Lutan Mukhiya gang, allegedly received the solved answer sheet of the NEET-UG exam in PDF format on his mobile phone a day before the exam.

The statement implicated members of the Mukhiya gang, accused of orchestrating multiple interstate paper leaks, as the source of the leaked answer sheet.

Further investigation revealed that Baldev and his associates printed and distributed the solved answer sheet to students gathered at a safe house in Ram Krishna Nagar in Patna on May 4 for memorisation. The aspirants were brought there by two previously arrested persons, Nitish Kumar and Amit Anand.

According to the statement, the leaked NEET-UG question paper was obtained from a private school in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, by the Mukhiya gang.

Investigators matched a partially burnt question paper recovered from the Patna safe house with the reference question paper provided by the National Testing Agency (NTA), confirming the leak’s origin, it said.

Standard procedures for handling and transporting question papers, as set by the NTA, were also allegedly disregarded by those involved in the breach.

The EOU interrogated several persons linked to the custody chain of the question papers, including bank officials and employees of a courier company.

Rajeev Kumar, Panku Kumar and Paramjeet Singh were arrested for providing duplicate mobile SIMs, phones and accommodation to Baldev Kumar and his associates in Deoghar, the EOU said.

Mukesh Kumar, a taxi driver, was also arrested for facilitating transport for the accused and aspirants within Patna.

The statement said 15 aspirants identified by the NTA were being scrutinised, with four already questioned, while the remainder are yet to appear for examination by investigators.

With the case now transferred to the CBI, further investigation into the NEET paper leak and associated irregularities is expected to unfold under the agency’s purview.

Previously, the EOU had arrested 13 persons, including a junior engineer, Sikandar Yadavendu and others linked to the case. These arrests followed allegations from aspirants and their parents, who admitted to receiving and using the leaked question paper to prepare for the NEET-UG exam.

Attacked

The visiting CBI team probing the UGC-NET examination was allegedly attacked by locals in Bihar’s Nawada after which four persons were arrested by police on a complaint from the central agency, officials said Sunday.

The incident occurred on Saturday evening when a team of CBI had gone to Kasiadeeh village in the area, they said.

A mob gathered around the CBI vehicles and heckled the officers, they said, adding a call was made to the local police station which dispatched force from Rajauli police station.

An FIR was filed by the local police against the accused on charges of disrupting government work and assault, among others.

The local police arrested four persons allegedly involved in the attack and they have been sent to judicial custody, they said.

The CBI had registered an FIR into the UGC-NET paper leak case on Thursday against unidentified people on a reference from the Union education ministry.

The UGC-NET-2024 exam for the selection of junior research fellows, assistant professors and PhD scholars was conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on June 18 in two shifts across the country.

The next day, the University Grants Commission received inputs from the National Cyber Crime Threat Analytics Unit of the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (l4C) that the paper was available on the darknet and allegedly being sold for Rs 5-6 lakh on messaging platforms, sources said.

According to the complaint from the education ministry, the inputs from I4C, which functions under the Union home ministry, “prima-facie indicate that the integrity of the examination may have been compromised”, officials said.

Gujarat Scene

In Gujarat, where cases of question paper leaks have been registered by police, has handed over the NEET-UG case file to the CBI.

Additional Chief Secretary A K Rakesh issued the notification handing over the case registered at the Godhra Taluka police station on May 8 under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal breach of trust among others.

Facing flak over alleged discrepancies in competitive exams, the Centre on Saturday shunted out NTA Director General Subodh Singh and set up a seven-member panel headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan to review the agency’s functioning and recommend exam reforms. It postponed the NEET-PG entrance, the fourth entrance exam to be impacted in recent days.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here