Re-NEET vs re-evaluation of OMR sheets: Why are experts advocating for a re-exam? Would it be held fairly?

The Supreme Court of India is set to hear a batch of 26 petitions regarding NEET-UG 2024 irregularities on July 8. Can one expect that the exam will be conducted again? Read to know more
Should NEET be conducted again?
Should NEET be conducted again?(Source: EdexLive Desk)

Speculation about the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG) 2024 exam being re-conducted is at an all-time high due to the continuous stream of petitions being submitted to the Supreme Court of India.

The petitions now claim that conducting the examination again is an infringement of their democratic rights. As per LiveLaw, 56 students from Gujarat, aged 17-18 years, have approached the Supreme Court demanding that there should be no re-NEET.

As per the tweet posted on social media platform X, yesterday, Wednesday, July 3, these students demand that the exam should not be conducted again. They reason that their efforts and years of studies will amount to nothing if the exam stands cancelled.

Prior to this, five NEET-UG 2024 candidates pleaded with the apex court with a similar concern. As per LiveLaw, they suggested that keeping in consideration the rank inflation this year, a re-evaluation of scores can be done, rather than conducting a re-exam for all of the candidates.

Other opinions are pouring in as time advances towards the judgement day of July 8. 

EdexLive spoke to education and NEET experts to understand whether re-evaluation is a viable option or re-NEET, and what should the apex court consider before the hearing commences on Monday, July 8.

Is re-evaluation of OMR sheets a feasible option?
"No Justice, and no solution at all," claimed Jayaprakash Gandhi, an education expert and a career guidance counsellor, regarding the entire row. 

"These tests are conducted via pen and paper method. The OMR sheets are thereafter scanned digitally and results are published accordingly. Re-evaluation is definitely not a viable option," reasoned Gandhi.

Another NEET expert, Gaurav Tyagi, echoes a similar concern that OMR sheets are scanned via software, and repeating the procedure would not make any difference to the ranks. He further asserts that many students have claimed that their OMR sheets have been tampered with and , in this case, re-evaluation would provide them no relief whatsoever.

Weighing in with his opinion, and boldening the consensus towards a "no alternative to re-examination" notion, Amit Jhakal, another NEET expert, says that there will be several suggestions, as always. He asserts that people cannot keep creating further confusion even though it is clear that the answer lies in conducting the examination again.

On students pleading against re-examination, the expert adds that students who may have procured a good rank would want to secure it, and many of them are deserving of it, yet the ones who may have faced injustice should be given a chance, and only this can ensure justice for all, he told EdexLive.

If re-NEET happens, will the exam be conducted fairly?
One must remember that irregularities have tainted the reputation of the examination, along with that of the exam conducting body National Testing Agency (NTA). This is because students have alleged not just one but several irregularities including timings of the result release, paper leaks, mismanagement, and scepticism over the National Testing Agency's (NTA) ability to conduct exams. Even the removal of Director General Subodh Singh might not have soothed students' doubts entirely. 

EdexLive asked experts if NEET, indeed, is conducted again, would it be a fair affair, and experts opined collectively that it would be.

Jhakal and Gandhi established that such examinations should entirely be turned into a computer-based test (CBT) like the Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE), to minimise the chances of corruption. 

It may be recalled that the University Grants Commission - National Eligibility Test (UGC - NET), which was conducted in pen and paper mode on June 18 and then cancelled, will be re-conducted in CBT mode in multiple shifts between August 21 and September 4, 2024. By doing so, the agency has fallen back to the same pattern in which it used to conduct the session before the compromised June 2024 session.

Expert Tyagi declared with a stronger conviction that NEET will be conducted fairly if the apex court rules for it.  

"With the prevailing confusion coupled with a larger scrutiny against the examination, the NTA would not risk anything, and there would not be any random leaks," he shared.

However, the lingering question remains — whether the exam-conducting body has identified the loopholes and is working to address them.

Jayaprakash Gandhi expressed that there must be large-scale reformation to address long-term concerns and not just a short-term appeasement. He added, "Let the organisational body take its time, NEET was previously delayed during COVID. If it gets delayed this time, it should not be worrisome. All we need is justice and zero intolerance towards corruption," according to Gandhi.

The Centre has already formed a high-level committee to look into the entire exam-conducting process and the functioning of NTA.

The official word

It may be recalled that Dharmendra Pradhan has reiterated time and time again that no matter who it is, the strictest punishments will be meted out to the accused and that they will act in the best interests of the students. Prime Minister assured the same in Rajya Sabha yesterday, July 3. 

It may also be noted that during a press conference on June 20, the education minister declared, "Due to isolated incidents, the future of all students shouldn't be held hostage".

During a Supreme Court hearing on July 1, Justice Ravikumar categorically informed a candidate, "Are you thinking that for you, a solitary person, a re-test will be conducted? Please do not hope against hope", as stated in a report by LiveLaw. However, during another hearing on June 18, it had said, "If there's even 0.001 per cent negligence, it should be dealt with".

Is the final call on July 8?
As per the cause list for July 8 available on the Supreme Court's website, a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra will hear a batch of 26 petitions surrounding the NEET-UG 2024 exam. EdexLive asked experts what the NEET-UG 2024 candidates should expect.

Expert Tyagi contends that the issues have been flagged by the Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan about grace marks, paper leaks and mismanagement at certain exam centres. "Since the government has taken accountability, the court must make decisions with the utmost consideration, but I feel it may require some time as the decision is bound to affect the future of lakhs of students," said Gaurav Tyagi.

It is to be noted that the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) following a leak in 2015 was deemed cancelled by the Supreme Court. The bench further directed CBSE to re-conduct it within a span of four weeks, which it manoeuvered successfully.

On a similar note, Tyagi asserts that the government will also be able to conduct NEET-UG 2024 again this time with fewer hindrances, if protocols are judiciously followed.

What about the students then?
There is no end to questions and enquiries when it comes to the future of students. While petitions are piling up in front of the Supreme Court as many are demanding that NEET UG 2024 be conducted again, others are contradicting it. Who is the court bound to listen?

Amit Jhakal, who has been teaching Chemistry to students appearing for competitive examinations, expressed that as a teacher, he feels that re-examination should happen, irrespective of whether students think it is justified or not.

"Students will be divided in their opinions. Many would not want to let go of their ranks, there are personal interests involved as well. Many students are deserving, and many are not, but we cannot set aside the aspirations of those who could truly have had a fruitful chance. We cannot let go of the injustice," said the NEET expert.

Tyagi, too, told EdexLive that aspirants who have worked hard and are intelligent enough would not hesitate to re-appear. He emphasised that students must value the opportunity if given again and multiply their efforts, as they will be given a fair chance.

Do you think that conducting the NEET exam again might take a mental toll on students? Let us know in the comments below.

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