CBI teams rush to Gujarat, Bihar for NEET-UG leak probe | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

CBI teams rush to Gujarat, Bihar for NEET-UG leak probe

Jun 24, 2024 12:07 AM IST

CBI investigates NEET-UG exam conspiracy, arrests made in Bihar and Gujarat. Govt not inclined for re-exam. Protests continue, SC to hear matter on July 8.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday filed a case to investigate a “larger conspiracy” in how the medical college screening test NEET-UG was conducted and dispatched special teams to Gujarat and Bihar, where close to two dozen people have been arrested over suspicion that they had a role in leaking questions or enabling cheating.

Students under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) stage a protest against the alleged NEET-UG results scam seeking a CBI inquiry(snehal sontakke)
Students under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) stage a protest against the alleged NEET-UG results scam seeking a CBI inquiry(snehal sontakke)

NEET-UG: 750 out of 1,563 students skip re-test, reveals NTA

The developments came even as officials in the Union education ministry, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stressed that the problems were “localised” and “isolated” incidents, suggesting the government was not inclined to order a complete re-exam that was written by 2.4 million applicants.

“It is not fair to jeopardise careers of lakhs of candidates who cleared the exam rightfully,” a senior official said, asking not to be named.

The position holds significance since the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are expected to face-off with the Opposition in Parliament in the week starting Monday, with the leaders from parties such as Congress and Trinamool Congress planning to raise the issues of several nationally crucial examinations now being botched up affecting an estimated 3.7 million students.

Sunday’s action by the federal agency came a day after the government handed it the probe and following inputs from police in Bihar and Gujarat, where the investigators too handed the matter over to the CBI.

The past week was marked by protests from students groups and political parties over the issue, the cancellation of another critical national examination UGC-NET, and the postponing of two others — a string of controversies that eventually forced the government to sack the chief of the National Testing Authority that conducted the NEET-UG (National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test for undergraduate medical college admissions) on May 5.

Several petitioners have approached the Supreme Court with various requests relating to the exam, including a plea to scrap it entirely or halt the counselling process — by which students are allotted seats in different colleges — that is scheduled to begin on July 6. The court refused to pass any interim orders and is due to hear the mater again on July 8.

On Sunday, protests from students groups continued in various states — with protesters split on demanding a re-exam while others sought the results to stand.

According to officials, the federal agency has formed “special teams” to investigate the irregularities “on top priority” and rushed them to Bihar and Gujarat to ascertain details of probes being carried out by the police there.

The Bihar Police has been investigating a NEET-UG paper leak matter since last month and has arrested 17 people, including those suspected to have obtained the paper, hired “solvers” and helped an unknown number of candidates memorise the answers before the exam.

In Gujarat, police arrested half a dozen individuals, including the head of a coaching centre, in connection with alleged cheating at an examination centre for NEET-UG in Godhra.

Some detentions made by Maharashtra Police too are being watched and CBI may send a team there as well, if required, said officials.

While handing over the probe to CBI on Saturday late evening, Union education ministry said it was doing so for the transparency on the conduct of the examination process. The federal agency has invoked sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) in its first information report (FIR).

“The allegations in the FIR state that the NEET (UG) 2024 examination was conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on May 5 at 4,750 centres in 571 cities, including 14 cities abroad, with over 23 lakh candidates appearing for the examination. The complaint further alleges that certain isolated incidents occurred in a few states during the conduct of the NEET (UG) examination,” a CBI spokesperson said on Sunday.

The ministry of education, the spokesperson said, 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, including attempted irregularities.”

He further said the ministry has also asked to investigate the “role of public servants, if any, connected with the conduct of the examination” as well as “the entire gamut of events and the larger conspiracy”.

Accordingly, the CBI spokesperson said, the agency has “registered a criminal case and initiated an investigation”.

The agency is already investigating the leak of the UGC-NET 2024 question paper, which was cancelled a day after being held on Thursday after the government received inputs showing the questions had been leaked on the darkweb.

NEET-UG: 17 candidates from Bihar, 30 from Gujarat debarred for malpractices

Facing flak over discrepancies in the competitive exams, the Centre shunted out NTA chief, Subodh Kumar Singh, and replaced him with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Pradeep Singh Kharola.

Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan also said on Saturday that top leadership of NTA was under the scanner, and named a seven-member committee to comprehensively review the structure, processes and working of the NTA.

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