In a major embarrassment to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the Supreme Court pulled up the CBSE for setting different question papers in different languages for National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2017 in which more than 11 lakh students had appeared on May 7, 2017.
The court asked the CBSE to file an affidavit to conduct NEET, a common entrance test for admission into undergraduate courses in medical and dental colleges across India, with common difficulty level of questions for everyone. “The main paper can be in English and questions can be translated into regional languages,” the bench told the CBSE lawyer and additional solicitor general, Maninder Singh.
The three-judge bench headed by justice Dipak Misra was hearing a petition filed by NGO Sankalp Charitable Trust on whose plea the SC had last year ruled that NEET would be the single-window exam to admit students in all medical and dental colleges across the country.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising who was appearing for Sankalp Charitable Trust cited data and ratio between the number of students who took NEET in English and Hindi and equivalent ratio with respect to the students who qualified to tell the court that standard of question papers in English and regional languages were different.
CBSE lawyer Singh admitted the discrepancy but said the difficulty level was the same. “As long as the difficulty level is the same, it passes the test of uniformity,” Singh told the bench.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) gave the reason of non-availability of the translator to set different questions. MCI informed SC that questions were first prepared in English and then translated into Hindi. Since experts were not available to translate questions, different questions with similar difficulty level were set. The court listed the matter for a hearing on October 10.
NEET 2017 was conducted in 10 languages and different languages had different sets of question papers. Some students have challenged this pattern, arguing that by framing different question papers, CBSE had denied them a level playing field. They said, instead, the Board could have translated a common question paper. They alleged that Indian language question papers were tougher than the English.
Madurai bench of Madras High Court had barred on all proceedings of NEET 2017 in June but the Supreme Court stayed the Madras high court order and allowed CBSE to declare the NEET 2017 results.
Even today, the top court declined to “nullify” NEET 2017, saying it would affect over six lakh candidates who cleared the test.