CBI Takes Over 5 Cases Of Alleged Irregularities In NEET-UG

Amid protests and litigation, the Centre on Saturday removed National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Singh.

CBI Takes Over 5 Cases Of Alleged Irregularities In NEET-UG

The Centre has drawn flak over alleged irregularities in NEET-UG and UGC-NET. (Representational)

The CBI on Monday took over five new cases of alleged malpractices in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG that were being investigated by police in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar, as the political storm intensified with the opposition gearing up to confront the government in Parliament on the paper leak issue.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra has arrested a Zilla Parishad school headmaster from Latur and detained a teacher after it emerged that at least four persons allegedly operated a racket to help NEET students willing to pay money to crack the exam.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider abolishing NEET, the national-level medical entrance exam introduced in 2013, and reverting to the system of states conducting the exam in the wake of the paper leak row.

Several opposition MPs said on the first day of the 18th Lok Sabha that the government will have to answer on the issue in Parliament as it is causing hardship to lakhs of students.

As Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan proceeded to take oath in Lok Sabha, members of the opposition shouted "NEET, NEET".

Amid protests and litigation, the Centre on Saturday removed National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Subodh Singh and handed over the probe into irregularities in NEET-UG to the CBI, which is now probing a total of six cases in the matter.

Pradeep Singh Kharola took the additional charge of NTA on Monday and had meetings with officials of the testing body.

The seven-member panel set up by the Education Ministry headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan to review the NTA's functioning and recommend exam reforms met on Monday evening.

"The panel met today and was apprised of the current processes and functioning of the agency. The panel also looked into the statistics provided by NTA about the multiple exams conducted by it and the number of candidates appearing for each exam," a source said.

Dharmendra Pradhan had asserted that it was the first of a series of steps to improve the efficiency of the examination process, put an end to all possible malpractices, strengthen data security protocols and overhaul and reform the NTA.

The Centre on Monday also made public the rules under the recently notified anti-paper leak law, mandating the National Recruitment Agency (NRA) to prepare norms, standards and guidelines for the computer-based tests among others.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Rules, 2024 have provisions for "engagement of services of other government agencies by public examination authority", "preparations of norms, standards and guidelines" and "reporting of incidents of unfair means or offences" among others.

Officials at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said the agency has re-registered one case each from Gujarat and Bihar and three cases from Rajasthan as its own FIR. It is also likely to take up another case from Maharashtra's Latur.

Barring the case from Bihar, the other four appear to be isolated incidents of impersonation and cheating by local officials, invigilators and candidates, the officials said.

The CBI has already registered its own FIR in connection with the case on a reference from the Union education ministry to conduct a comprehensive probe, they said.

After taking over these new cases, the CBI is now probing six cases of alleged irregularities in NEET-UG.

The Economic Offences Unit of the Bihar Police arrested five more persons on Sunday, taking the total arrests to 18.

In Maharashtra, police said they have arrested Jalil Khan Umar Khan Pathan, the headmaster of a Cilla Parishad school late Sunday night, and detained another school teacher Sanjay Jadhav on Monday for questioning. According to police, both teachers also run a private coaching centre.

The Centre has drawn flak over alleged irregularities in NEET-UG and UGC-NET.

In a letter to the PM, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee called for strong action against those involved in the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG exam.

"I strongly urge upon you to consider and take immediate steps to restore the previous system of conducting this examination by the state governments and abolish the NEET examination.

"This will help restore normalcy and confidence of the aspirant students in the system," she said.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Anil Desai said addressing the NEET-UG row requires more than arresting a few individuals and claimed the involvement of a broader network in the case.

"The entire reputation has been tarnished because of NEET. Simply arresting one or two officers will not resolve the issue. There is an extensive racket at work," alleged the Mumbai South Central MP.

Days after Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Kumar Sinha claimed that an arrested prime suspect is linked to officials associated with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, RJD MP Manoj Jha claimed proximity between those named for paper leaks and leaders of the JD(U) and BJP.

While the medical entrance exam question paper was allegedly leaked, according to an investigation by the Bihar Police, UGC-NET was cancelled a day after it was conducted following input that the exam's integrity had been compromised. Both matters are now being investigated by the CBI.

Two other exams -- NEET-PG and CSIR-UGC NET -- have been cancelled by the government amid the row.

Meanwhile, the Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India (NSUI) held a protest at Jantar Mantar.

Ahead of their planned march to Parliament, police barricaded the area and more than two dozen students, some of them NSUI members, were detained.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)