Irregularities in NEET-UG: Centre orders CBI probe, sets up high-level panel for exam reforms amid protests

Students stage a protest over the NEET-UG and UGC-NET examinations issue, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Central Government on Saturday handed over the probe into the alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a comprehensive investigation. The Education Ministry also 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. The development came amid a flurry of decisions  including the removal of National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Singh.

"Certain cases of alleged irregularities, cheating, impersonation and malpractices have been reported in NEET-UG which was conducted on May 5. For transparency on 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 comprehensive investigation," a senior Education Ministry official said.

The government is committed to ensuring the sanctity of examinations and protecting the interest of students, the official said, adding any individual and organisation found to be involved in irregularities will face the strictest action.

The examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres and around 24 lakh candidates appeared. The results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4. The allegations of irregularities have led to protests in several cities, litigation and sparring between rival political parties.

A fresh plea was filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the CBI and the ED to investigate the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG. The petition, filed by 10 students who had appeared for the exam, has also sought a direction to Bihar Police to expedite the investigation in the case and file a report before the apex court. The top court had earlier sought responses from the Centre, the NTA and others on a slew of petitions, including those seeking scrapping of the NEET-UG 2024 exam and a court-monitored probe. The apex court had also stayed further proceedings on similar pleas pending before different high courts.

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 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 are being scrapped and these students would be given an option of a retest.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) will on Sunday conduct the retest for these 1,563 candidates. 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.

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