NEET candidates should have basic knowledge of English even if writing in regional language; Madras HC order granting grace marks set aside: SC

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ. allowed a set of appeals filed against the order of Madras High Court whereby it had allocated 196 grace marks to all candidates who appeared for National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-UG 2018 examination in Tamil regional language.

In NEET-UG 2018, bi-lingual questions were set in English with an option of additional regional language. The paper consisted of 180 questions; four marks were granted for each correct answer and one mark was deducted for every wrong answer. After the exam, some students filed a writ petition before the Madras High Court. The Court noticed mistranslations in the Tamil version in 49 questions. The High Court decided to give 4 grace marks for each incorrectly translated question to nearly 24,000 students who wrote the exam in Tamil. As a result, each of such students was entitled to a total of 196 grace marks. Aggrieved thereby, instant appeals were preferred by CBSE and other students.

The Supreme Court held the High Court’s order to be manifestly arbitrary, unjustified and unsustainable. The Court observed that students appearing for the NEET-UG applied for admission in MBBS/BDS courses which are taught entirely in English. The expert committee which had set the examination had given clear instructions that require the students to refer to the English version in case of ambiguity. Knowledge of the subject in English was an implied required. It was noted that there was no grievance regarding any difficulty about the questions in English. It was observed that words with imprecise meaning could have been easily discovered to be faulty and a simple reference to the English version would have clarified the same. The Court held that the students of NEET-UG 2018 were unduly benefitted only because they opted to give the exam in Tamil. In such circumstances, the order of the High Court was set aside and the appeals were allowed. Also, it was directed that from the year 2019-20 onwards, NEET-UG will be conducted by the National Testing Agency.[C.B.S.E v. T.K. Rangarajan,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2526, decided on 22-11-2018]

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