New Delhi: Amid a heated controversy and demands from the opposition to re-conduct the NEET-UG medical entrance exam, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan stated on Thursday that isolated incidents of malpractice should not impact the many students who legitimately passed the examination. Describing the leak of the UGC-NET exam’s question paper as an “institutional failure” of the National Testing Agency (NTA), Pradhan announced that the government would establish a high-level panel to scrutinize the agency’s operations, as reported by PTI.

During a press conference, Pradhan urged opposition parties not to politicise the issue and assured that strict action would be taken against those found guilty, including “top” officials of the NTA.

Prior to the hastily organised press conference, there were strong indications that the minister might announce the cancellation of the exam and actions against NTA DG Subodh Kumar Singh, who had been summoned by the ministry earlier in the day.

Pradhan, however, did not respond to both queries affirmatively.

“Be it NTA or any top official or senior person in NTA, strict action will be taken against whoever is found guilty in the NEET case. No malpractice will be tolerated and the government is committed to holding zero-error exams,” he said.

“The cancellation of UGC-NET was not a knee-jerk reaction. We got proof that the paper had leaked on darknet and was circulating on (messaging app) Telegram and decided to cancel the exam. Paper leak is an institutional failure of NTA. We are assuring you that there will be a reform committee and action will be taken,” Pradhan said.

He evaded repetitive queries on whether NEET would also be cancelled, similar to the NET exam. Pradhan also did not comment on a timeline for when a final decision would be made, leaving 23 lakh candidates in suspense.

“It is unfair to hold hostage the career of those candidates who have rightfully cleared the exam because of some isolated incidents of malpractice. We are in constant touch with the Bihar Police. We have sought a report from them. Once we have it, we will decide the future course of action. I take full responsibility and anomalies in the system will be rectified,” the minister said.

“Let us have faith in our systems and no irregularities or malpractices will be tolerated by the government,” he said.

Also Read: High-Level Committee To Be Formed, No One Will Be Spared: Education Minister On NEET Controversy

The NEET-UG examination was held on May 5 across 4,750 centers, with around 24 lakh candidates participating. Although the results were expected on June 14, they were announced on June 4 due to the earlier completion of answer sheet evaluations.

In an unprecedented event in the NTA’s history, 67 students scored a perfect 720, with six from a center in Haryana’s Faridabad, raising suspicions about possible irregularities. Allegations suggest that grace marks might have contributed to these 67 students sharing the top rank.

The NEET-UG examination, conducted by the NTA, is essential for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH, and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

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