NEET Row: Why ‘Grace Marks’ Raise Red Flags? A Look At The 2015 Case When SC Cancelled AIPMT – News18

Nearly 1,500 students were awarded ‘grace marks’ in the NEET-UG (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate) 2024 that has raised red flags in the exam system conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). Reports say the compensatory marks were given due to “loss of exam time”.

The re-test that was conducted for the 1,563 students on June 23 was taken by only 52% of the candidates, that is, only 813 were in attendance. The retest was conducted at seven centers following an order from the Supreme Court.

What are Grace Marks in NEET?

‘Grace marks’ mean additional marks that are given to a candidate as compensation for the loss of time he or she faced during the exam day. The grace marks in NEET are added to the actual marks of the candidates and are decided as per the Supreme Court’s judgment dated June 13, 2018 in W.P. 551 of 2018.

Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court to seek an answer from the NTA on the distribution of grace marks to the 1,563 students.

The scorecards of these students were cancelled and they were given the option to appear for the NEET re-test. If the students with the grace marks do not wish to take the re-test, their scores without the grace marks will be considered as the final one.

The CEO of ‘Physics Wallah’, Alakh Pandey, had claimed that 70-80 marks were randomly awarded as NEET grace marks to at least 1,500 students.

As per his petition, the allocation of grace marks is “completely random and without any proper reason”. The Supreme Court, however, has closed the issue of NEET grace marks due to a lack of supporting evidence but has kept this petition as pending for redressing other grievances.

The Supreme Court will resume reviewing the other petitions apart from the grace marks on July 8. These developments will not stall the ongoing counselling process.

Why Grace Marks were Allotted

According to the Bihar’s Economic Offences Unit, the digital locks of the NEET-UG exam question paper boxes malfunctioned at various centres. The locks were meant to be opened automatically before exams but failed. This caused a delay in distribution of question papers. Thus, the delay was compensated by grace marks.

A report by the India Today said at three centers in Bahadurgarh, Haryana—Vijaya School, SR Century School, and Hardayal Public School—two sets of papers were hastily distributed due to the delays. One set was later retrieved, and candidates were given an additional 30 minutes and grace marks, though only those at Hardayal Public School received the grace marks.

What were the Other Red Flags?

On May 10, The Times of India had cited the police as saying that 20 students had received the question paper before the examination. The police identified Samastipur-resident Sikander Yadavendu as the person who rented a house in Patna to lodge the 20 aspirants who were given the question papers on May 4 – a day before the NEET.

The police version was corroborated by one Anurag Yadav, a NEET candidate, who said his uncle, Yadavendu, had dropped him at a house in Patna where he was given the question paper.

In Gujarat, the police named three persons, including a schoolteacher in Godhra, in an FIR registered on May 8 for attempting to commit malpractice in the NEET examination. On June 14, the Gujarat Police arrested five persons for alleged malpractice.

The NTA’s press release on the day of the NEET exam did not mention about of the cases in Gujarat and Bihar. The exam agency did note an “isolated incident” in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur in which incorrect question papers were distributed after which some candidates left the exam centre with the question papers.

As a result, the paper was circulated on the internet around 4 pm when the exam had already begun at other centres in the country.

The NTA only announced that the grace marks would be awarded on June 6, two days after the results were announced, sparking a controversy over the total scores obtained by some students.

When SC Cancelled the Medical Exam in 2015

Before the NTA was formed in 2017, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) used to conduct the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT). In 2015, more than six lakh candidates sat for the exam on May 3 at 1,050 centres across the country.

On June 15, 2015, the Supreme Court cancelled the exam and directed that the re-test be conducted within four weeks.

There were petitions in the SC that said electronic devices were used by candidates to access answer keys, and asked the court to cancel the exam.

The Haryana Police had told the top court in its report that while the exam was underway, it had received information that four people had leaked an answer key to the question paper and circulated it to candidates for some amount. The police found a car with four suspects and vests with micro SIM and Bluetooth devices. Answer keys were found on some of their phones, as per a report by The Indian Express.

The SC bench had noted while cancelling the exam that “this is the price the stakeholders would have to suffer in order to maintain the impeccable and irrefutable sanctity and credibility of a process of examination, to assess the innate worth and capability of the participating candidates…”

The court also said while 44 candidates were identified as having benefited from the malpractice, “it is not unlikely that many more candidates have availed such undue advantage”.

The CBSE counsel had told the court that 44 beneficiaries were identified from the operation, but the whole process of conducting the exam should not be invalidated.

The CBSE had also told the court that conducting fresh examinations would result in a delay in the academic session, and could impact the prospects of students, and would need at least 120 days to hold a fresh exam.

The exam was held again in July, 2015.