No indication of mass malpractice in NEET UG as per data analysis by IIT Madras, Centre tells SC

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The Govt told SC that the exercise by IIT Madras was undertaken since the court asked it to ascertain if it would be feasible to employ data analytics to identify suspects or suspicious cases and added that the confidentiality of the question papers is the utmost priority in any examination

The Union government has on July 10, 2024 stated before the Supreme Court that a technical analysis of NEET UG, 2024 data conducted by IIT Madras which has revealed that there was no indication of mass malpractice, or abnormal scores to a local set of candidates in the examination conducted for admission to undergraduate courses in medical colleges.

A day before the hearing on pleas to hold retest amid allegations of leakage and other irregularities, the Ministry of Education filed an affidavit in terms of the apex court's order of July 8.

It said the IIT Madras was asked to carry out an exhaustive and elaborate technical evaluation of the data pertaining to the NEET UG 2024 examination, using the parameters like marks distribution, city-wise and centre-wise rank distribution and candidates spread over marks- range.

The analysis was carried out for the top 1.4 lakh ranks given that the total number of seats across the country is around 1.1 lakhs, it said.

"The analysis shows that there is neither any indication of mass malpractice nor a localised set of candidates being benefitted leading to abnormal scores," the government said.

The analysis, however, recorded overall increase in the marks obtained by students specifically in the range of 550 to 720. This increase is seen across the cities and the centres. This is attributed to 25 % reduction in syllabus. In addition, candidates obtaining such high marks are spread across multiple cities, indicating very less likelihood of malpractice, the affidavit said.

The exercise by IIT Madras was undertaken since the court had asked the government ascertain if it would be feasible to employ data analytics to identify suspects or suspicious cases.

The court was then hearing a batch of petitions seeking re-examination of NEET UG.

On the court's question to any decision proposed at policy level on counselling to identify any beneficiary of paper leakage, the government said for any candidate, if it is found that he or she has been beneficiary of any malpractice, their candidature would be cancelled at any stage during the counselling or afterwards.

The government also said the counselling process would be conducted in four rounds, starting from third week of July.

In respect of the steps, required to be taken in future to ensure that the examination process is made more robust and insulant to any kind of malpractice, the central government said it has established a High-Level Committee of Experts to recommend effective measures for the conduct of transparent, smooth and fair examinations by the National Testing Agency. 

The seven-member committee is headed by Dr K Radhakrishnan, former Chairman I.S.R.O and Chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Kanpur, it said.

The government asserted that it was taking all-round efforts to device solution-oriented mechanism while ensuring that on one hand no candidate guilty of malpractice gets any benefit and on the other hand, ensuring that 23 Lacs students are not required to be burdened with a fresh test merely based upon unsupported apprehensions.

The affidavit also said the Union government is committed towards making a robust examination process for conducting all competitive examinations in a fair and transparent manner, which is completely insulated from any kind of room, for criminally minded people, for perpetrating any kind of malpractice in the examination process such as impersonation, cheating or paper-leak. 

"The confidentiality of the question papers is the utmost priority in any examination," it said.

The government remains committed towards protecting the interests of lakhs of students who have attempted the question papers fairly and after years of hard work, without trying to obtain any illegal advantage, it added.

The government also pointed out Parliament has enacted Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 on February 12, 2024 to ensure transparency, fairness, and credibility in public examination and to protect the sanctity of examinations and the interest of students. The Act was brought into effect on June 21, 2024 and it provides for stringent punishment for offences related to unfair means in public examinations. Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Rules, 2024 under the Act have also been notified on June 23, 2024, it said.

Cause Title: Shivangi Mishra & Ors Vs National Testing Agency & Ors