The Supreme Court on Friday overturned a previous Bombay High Court ruling ordering the National Testing Agency to organise a new exam for two NEET-UG applicants due to an invigilator error that resulted in the test booklets and OMR sheets being mixed up.
While the Court sympathised with the two students' situation, Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai emphasised that ordering a re-test for the two students was problematic.
As a result, the bench granted the National Testing Agency's appeal against the High Court's order.
The panel had previously stayed the High Court's order, allowing the NTA to announce the NEET-UG results which were withheld because of the High Court's order have raised the issue before the court.
The invigilator had confessed the error, according to the bench's order. The students' counsel's claim that they wasted valuable time as a result of the mix-up was also accepted by the bench.
The bench went on to say that, it understood the emotional stress that young pupils were under when sitting an exam in such a setting.
"...although we sympathise with their plight, it is impossible for us to direct re-examination just for them. As a result, the High Court's ruling is overturned ".
In the order, the bench stated:
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the NTA in court, said that the mix-up included six pupils. Only two kids, on the other hand, have raised the issue before the court.
"Without consulting my client, I am submitting, principally we can have no objection in taking the re-exam, but the difficulty we see is that there is another petition before High Court after this order...for some reason, some mistake... 16 lakh candidates are taking the exam every year, and we are working through invigilators across the country, and there could be some mistakes somewhere, but if that becomes a cause for re-examination, it will be never-ending", the SG submitted at the outset.
The two students' lawyers, Sudhanshu Choudhuri, claimed that they were repeaters who hailed from a low-income family. He read to the court the invigilator's apologies, which admitted the mistake.
"..the invigilators' tender apology for the mistake in distributing booklets to 6 students, test booklets fell and got mixed with wrong OMR sheets, "we were doing duty for the first time, we assure this happened in hurry and not a deliberate mistake"-they said", the counsel submitted.
He said that the two pupils have good academic records and that they should not be punished for answering the remaining questions under duress.
The bench noted that the two students' grades were computed following the NTA's proposal to the High Court that the scores be computed without regard to the test booklet code and OMR sheet being different.
"There is no dispute that, there was a mix-up in the distribution of the answer sheets and the text booklets where the code is different.
Realizing that the wrong answer given to a question would attract negative marks and relying upon the instruction given to candidates, respondents 1 and 2 pointed out to the invigilator that the correct answer sheet with the proper code has to be given to them.
From the materials provided by the SG, we examined the marks granted to responders 1 and 2.
They attempted the majority of the questions and received no negative feedback.
However, we find validity in Mr Choudhari's position that the two students were unable to answer all of the questions due to the loss of valuable time, and we also understand the two students' state of mind while sitting the test," the court said in the ruling.
It noted, however, that while it sympathises with the pupils, it cannot approve a re-test.
Though we sympathize with the cause of the two students. we find it difficult to order the reexamination of the two students. Thus we set aside the direction of the HC to conduct a fresh exam for the two students.
The bench ruled down the pupils' counsel's request for an alternate relief to compute their score using the average of their tried questions so that they may get into a college this year. The bench informed the attorney, "We're sorry, but we can't do anything."