CBI visits Bihar EOU offices, takes over 5 NEET cases across 3 states | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

CBI visits Bihar EOU offices, takes over 5 NEET cases across 3 states

Jun 25, 2024 04:32 AM IST

CBI is also expected to take custody of 17 accused persons arrested by the Bihar police and five by Gujarat police and question them.

New Delhi/Patna: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special teams tasked to investigate irregularities in the NEET-UG exam for entrance to medical colleges visited the offices of the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of Bihar police in Patna and Gujarat police in Panchmahal district to collected evidence from the local police.

NSUI supporters protest against the alleged paper leak of NEET-UG at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. (Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times)
NSUI supporters protest against the alleged paper leak of NEET-UG at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. (Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times)

Also Read: Case against NEET goes beyond failings of NTA

The federal agency, which filed a first information report (FIR) in NEET-UG irregularities on Sunday after a complaint from the education ministry, also took over five cases registered by the police in Bihar, Gujarat and Rajasthan in the alleged malpractices in the exam.

Officials familiar with the matter said that while the Bihar police’s FIR pertained to alleged paper leak, the other four cases — one from Gujarat and three from Rajasthan — were related to isolated incidents of impersonation and cheating involving local officials, invigilators, and candidates.

An official at the federal agency said it would focus particularly on the interrogation of Baldev Kumar alias Chintu (arrested by Bihar police on Sunday from Jharkhand along with four others) who is believed to have received the PDF file of a solved question paper of NEET-UG on his mobile on May 5, before the test scheduled the same day, and distributed this among students.

Also Read: Abolish NEET, let states conduct entrance exams, Mamata Banerjee's appeal to PM Modi

It is also expected to take custody of 17 accused persons arrested by the Bihar police and five by Gujarat police and question them.

To be sure, the Union education ministry has stressed that problems related to the exam were “localised” and “isolated”. It said as much in its complaint to CBI which registered a a case against unknown persons on Sunday on the basis of this complaint.

NEET results were declared on June 4, and caused a huge furore, with 67 people scoring the maximum possible 720 marks, as compared to only two last time, as well as a large number of students securing very high scores.

Also Read: Opposition MPs unite over NEET row, target Modi-led NDA govt. Who said what

The education ministry has attributed some of this to grace marks given to students and also ordered a retest for 1,563 candidates on June 23, including six from one centre in Jajhar, Haryana, who secured the maximum marks. But it has consistently maintained that there was no large-scale leak of the paper itself.

Both Bihar and Gujarat governments issued notifications to hand over their respective probes to the CBI on Sunday evening itself. The Bihar police have been investigating the NEET-UG paper leak matter since last month and have 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 five individuals, including the head of a coaching centre, in connection with alleged cheating at an examination centre for NEET-UG in Godhra.

Separate FIRs are likely to be filed by CBI based on Bihar and Gujarat police cases, CBI officials said.

A second CBI officer, who didn’t want to be named, said the agency is “in touch with National Testing Agency (NTA) also to get more details on the entire examination process from setting of question paper to compilation of final paper”.

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.

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 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”.

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.

Bihar Economic Offences Unit officials said CBI might take some of all the arrested accused in the case to its national headquarter in New Delhi on transit remand for further investigation. “ CBI is also likely to file multiple FIRs in connection with the matter to probe the destruction of evidence, and also register disproportionate assets (DA) cases against some of those accused who are public servants. A DA case may be registered against arrested accused Sikander Prasad Yadvendu, a junior engineer in Danapur town council, as he reportedly acquired huge assets that are disproportionate to his known source of income,” the officer said.

Yadvendu, identified as the prime suspect in the case, originally hails from Samastipur and has a history of involvement in criminal activities. Before becoming a junior engineer in 2012, he worked as a contractor in Ranchi.

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