Sunday, January 29, 2023

Supreme Court issues notice in plea filed by NTA regarding discrepancies found in NEET-UG

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The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on a plea filed by the National Testing Agency against the order of the division bench of the Madras High Court, which had stayed the investigation into discrepancies found in NEET-UG candidate OMR sheet uploaded on its website but remitted the matter back to single judge for adjudication and vacating the stay after hearing parties. 

The Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant observed,

“There shall be a stay on the operation of the impugned judgment of the division bench of Madras High Court dated 25th January 2022. However, we clarify that since the admission which has been granted to the candidate shall not be disturbed. There shall be a stay on the direction for the further investigation by the CB-CID.”

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Solicitor General Tushar Mehta placed reliance on the investigation report carried out by National Testing Agency and submitted that the candidate has placed two OMR answer sheets screenshots, one on 5th October and another one on 16th of October. 

“We have placed the investigation report before the High Court, the audit reveals that only one OMR was put up and he had repeatedly accessed it. I also wanted to put one thing he has been studying and admitted under an interim order for since last more than 2 years, it may not be proper on my part to seek a stay on his continuance. I cannot.”

The National Testing Agency had moved the Division Bench of the Madras High Court against the order of single-judge which had directed investigation into the two OMR sheets uploaded on its website with regard to a candidate who appeared in NEET UG exams. The Division Bench had directed its Registry to place the writ petition before learned Single Judge for adjudication of the main prayer. Secondly, the interim protection granted by learned Single Judge in favour of the petitioner vide order dated 11.01.2021 which has operated all throughout, shall continue till the disposal of the petition. The stay granted qua the investigation, at the request of the appellant Agency, on this appeal, shall continue till the writ petition is taken up for further consideration by learned Single Judge leaving it open to the Bench to consider continuing / vacating it, after hearing the parties.

This order has become the subject matter of challenge before the Supreme Court. 

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Aspirant K.S. Manoj filed a writ petition in Madras High Court with the prayer to allow him to participate in counselling for the admission to Medical Courses (UG) 2020 with reference to 594 out of 720 marks in NEET (UG) 2020 and accordingly provide him admission to Medical Course (UG). 

It is the case of the candidate that the OMR Sheet which was uploaded on 5.10.2020 in the website showed that the candidate had taken 594 marks in the NEET-2020 Exams and after 16.10.2020 this position changed all of a sudden on 17.10.2020 and it was noticed that the marks came down to 248. Initially, the Single Bench of Justice B Pugalendhi of Madras High court was not convinced to dig deep into the issue as the court believed that whatever the State Authorities say are accepted to be true.

Eventually, when the court asked to investigate the said issue it was found that the two OMR sheets had been published on the website. The court observed, “If such manipulation is in fact possible, it is really a danger that requires immediate investigation….” The court feared that the website does not truly reflect the actual answers given by candidates.

On the other hand, the National Testing Agency submitted that the screenshots furnished by the candidates are fabricated and fake. Meanwhile, the High Court gave an interim direction to admit the candidate to Thoothukkudi Medical College and hand over the matter to Investigating agency.

The NTA prayed for a stay of investigation and therefore preferred a Writ Appeal before the division bench of Justice Paresh Upadhyay and Justice Sathi Kumar Sukumara Kurup wherein the Madras High Court was directed to place the matter before Single Judge.

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Further, the court made it clear that the investigation reveals that any manipulation has been committed by the candidate, not only the petitioner but his parents will also be held responsible and have to face the legal consequences.

The matter is to be listed after 4 weeks. 

Case Name- National Testing Agency Vs K.S. Manoj. 

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