n a ruling that will disrupt the ongoing MBBS and BDS admission process, the Madras high court has ordered that 196 “grace marks” be awarded to the more than 24,000 students who wrote the NEET-2018 in Tamil for MBBS admissions. The court stayed ongoing MBBS admissions based on the present merit list and gave CBSE two weeks to come up with a fresh list of qualified candidates.
Lambasting CBSE for framing inaccurate and wrong translations in 49 questions, each carrying four marks and totalling 196, a division bench of Justice C T Selvam and Justice A M Basheer Ahmed said: “The list of qualified candidates shall be kept in abeyance, as would the counselling, pending publishing details of the qualified candidates afresh.”
The order divided parents and students eyeing MBBS seats. While more than 24,000 students who wrote the exam in Tamil were excited as almost all of them will now automatically qualify for MBBS/BDS admissions even if their original score was zero, or even -100, smiles fell off the faces of those students who had already bagged MBBS seats.
“My son spent a year after Class 12 studying hard to get a high score. It would be unfair to snatch the seat that was given to him,” said S Maheshwari, whose son has been placed in a government medical college.
Judges reject CBSE’s response
On the contrary, E Manikantan, a parent, said: “There is some justice finally. Our son wrote the exam in Tamil and had scored 182. But he was unable to get an MBBS seat as the cut-off for the BC category in all colleges in state counselling was 344. Now, with 378 marks, he will get a seat in a government college.”
The Madurai bench of the Madras high court was passing orders on a PIL filed by CPM MP T K Rangarajan who claimed there were translation errors in the Tamil NEET question paper and sought grace marks for all the students. For instance, the word “cheetah” was translated literally as “Seetha” while technical words like “multiple allele” and “ureter” were translated incorrectly, he said. The judges, observing that students who took the exam in Tamil should be given a level playing field, directed CBSE to grant four marks each for the 49 erroneous questions — in all, a total of 196 marks — for those who took the exams in Tamil.
They also rejected the CBSE’s response, submitted to the court on July 6, that subject experts in the regional languages concerned had been requested to translate the NEET question paper from English, and that since they were already teaching the subjects in the regional medium they were aware of the technical terms and so were the students. “We are unable to accept the response given by CBSE,” the judges said, adding that assuming students’ knowledge of technical terms because their teachers knew them was presumptuous. They also questioned the board on how they could determine the marks of Tamil-medium students based on their knowledge of English.
“We are left wondering whether the CBSE, a board entrusted with the conduct of examinations at the national level, can be so uncertain about the answers to questions raised by it,” the order said, pointing out that such ambiguity could be acceptable in the civil services, but not in NEET which was meant for students in the age group of 17 to 18. Stating that there are tens and thousands of students who pursue private study because they have to work to support their families financially, the court said the board should allow such students in future. “At the end of the day, our constitutional scheme is inclusive, not exclusive. We trust the issue will engage the attention of the authorities,” the order said.
While officials at CBSE said they were seeking legal opinion to go in appeal, the Tamil Nadu state selection committee secretary, Dr G Selvarajan, said he was awaiting further instructions from the government. The Tamil Nadu government is unlikely to appeal as the order is in favour of students who had written NEET in Tamil.
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