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NEET-UG 2024: More arrests made in Bihar over alleged paper leaks even though NTA claims no leakage, students demand re-exam for all candidates

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan stated that the government will not tolerate any malpractices and irregularities in the conduct of competitive exams like NEET-UG, adding that even the accountability of the National Testing Agency (NTA) will also be fixed in cases lapses are found. 

Amid the ongoing controversy regarding the NEET UG 2024 exam results, the Bihar Police has arrested around 13 persons including four examinees and their family members who suspiciously helped the aspirants in the MBBS entrance test.

“Investigation into the “paper leak” was handed over to the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of the Bihar Police on Friday. The case was being investigated by a special team of the Patna Police till now,” concerned authorities confirmed.

“A total of 13 people, including four examinees and their family members, have been arrested so far. Besides, one of the arrested accused is also involved in the Bihar Public Service Commission’s (BPSC) Teachers Recruitment Exam (TRE)-3 paper leak case. All the accused are in judicial custody and EOU sleuths will start their custodial interrogation,” an EOU release said.

“Police have already seized incriminating documents and electronic devices from the possession of the accused. Investigations so far have revealed that the question papers of NEET-UG and their answers were provided to around 35 aspirants before the May 5 exam. Further investigation is underway,” the release added.

Earlier, the Gujarat police detained three people in connection with the NEET UG 2024 paper leak charges after the district collector received information that some authorities were engaging in malpractice. The investigators entered the NEET examination centre and arrested the culprits.

The arrested officials were later identified as Tushar Bhatt, a physics instructor serving as deputy superintendent at the NEET examination centre, and Parsuram Roy and Arif Vora, coordinators. According to Gujarat police, students and teachers made a deal worth Rs 10 lakh to help them pass the exam. The police discovered Rs 7 lakh cash from Tushar Bhatt’s car, which was obtained as an advance, with the remaining 3 lakh to be handed after the exam.

While reports of paper leaks are emerging, the NTA authorities have claimed that no NEET papers were leaked though around 63 cases of using unfair means to get through the examinations have been reported.

The saga began on 4th June after the National Testing Agency (NTA) declared the results of the recently conducted NEET UG-24 exams.

A plea was filed against the NTA stating that grace marks were awarded to 1563 students who appeared for the NEET exam on May 5th. As per the plea, these grace marks aided some of the students to secure top ranks, also scoring 718 or 719 out of 720 which is technically impossible, given the negative marking system. 67 students have scored 720/720, out of which 50 got grace marks for an error in the Physics paper and for loss of time. The plea demanded a thorough investigation of the case, risking the future of around 24 lakhs who appeared for the exam across 4750 centres in India.

Notably, on Thursday (13th June), the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it has cancelled the decision to award grace marks to 1563 candidates who appeared for NEET UG-2024. The Centre also said that these 1563 students have been given the option to go ahead without the grace marks or appear for a re-test which will be held on 23 June. Meanwhile, several petitions have been filed to the SC claiming paper leaks and a significant increase in high scores. However, the NTA clarified that no papers were leaked though 63 cases were found who used unfair means to get through the examination.

The students on Friday continued to protest against the NTA demanding the re-examination of all the students and not just 1,563 of them, who were given grace marks. They also demanded a CBI inquiry into the case. Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan meanwhile stated that the government will not tolerate any malpractices and irregularities in the conduct of competitive exams like NEET-UG, adding that even the accountability of the National Testing Agency (NTA) will also be fixed in cases lapses are found. 

“The government is committed to protecting the interests of NEET examinees. I want to assure you that the government will not tolerate any irregularities and malpractice in the conduct of the medical examination. Anyone found guilty of involvement in such practices will be strictly punished. The ministry will also fix the accountability of the NTA. In case any lapses are found at the agency’s level, action will be taken. All concerns of students will be addressed with fairness and equity,” he was quoted as saying.

Pradhan stated that there is no substantial evidence to support the allegations of paper leaks during this year’s NEET-UG exam. He also met with some NEET candidates and their parents on Friday to discuss their concerns.

The Union Education Minister stated that NEET-UG was held in over 4,500 centres, with only six of them reporting erroneous question distribution. “Just because of the six centers, we can’t question the sanctity and credibility of the entire system…,” he said.

When asked if the government will take steps to bring some reforms in the way NTA conducts entrance, Pradhan said, “NTA is a competent agency. However, no institution is perfect, and we work on bringing reforms continuously.”

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