The Supreme Court today refused to "nullify" the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2017 exam, saying it would affect over six lakh candidates who have passed the test to join medical and dental courses. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said it would be "very difficult" to disturb the results of NEET as around 6.11 lakh candidates, out of a total of 11.35 lakh aspirants, have cleared it and the counselling process was on.
"We cannot pass an interim order like this. The admission process must continue. There are over six lakh students," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, said.
"In any case, it is very difficult to disturb the result," it said while refusing to accept the submission of counsel appearing for the petitioners who said that three sets of question papers were given to the candidates in the exam in Andhra Pradesh.
The counsel contended that NEET 2017 examination has to be "nullified" and conducted afresh. Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), opposed the contentions saying besides English and Hindi, the exam was conducted in eight vernacular languages for the first time.
"The level of difficulty of questions were the same in all the languages. We will put it in affidavit that there were two sets of question papers. Around 1.48 lakh candidates have given the exam in vernacular languages and it was to avoid leakage of question papers," Singh told the bench.
The petitioners argued that the all-India ranking was given in the NEET exam which postulates that every candidate should get the same question paper. "What has been done is completely unlawful. How can there be all-India ranking when students are given different sets of question papers," the counsel asked. However, the bench said it would first go through CBSE's affidavit and asked the board to file it within three days.
At the end of hearing, the counsel for petitioners referred to an order of the apex court on June 12 saying the declaration of result and admission shall be subject to the decision in the matter pending before it. However, the bench said, "The order is there. We are not vacating it. We will not pass any order today".
The bench has listed the matter for hearing on July 31. The top court had on June 12 stayed the Madras High Court order which had restrained CBSE from publishing the results. CBSE had declared the result on June 23.