The Central government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the counselling process for the undergraduate National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test will be held in four rounds starting from the third week of July, reported Live Law.

The counselling process, through which authorities guide students in choosing colleges and universities, is conducted by the National Testing Agency. The process was slated to begin on July 6. However, it was deferred indefinitely amid the allegations of irregularities in the examination.

On the delay in the counselling exercise, unidentified officials had told PTI last week that the process of issuing letters of permission to certain medical colleges was still underway and that new seats would be added.

On Wednesday, the Centre in its affidavit to the top court said if it is found that any candidate had benefitted from malpractices during the examination, her candidature would be cancelled at any stage during the counselling process or afterwards.

Relying on data analysis done by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, the Centre also denied any malpractice in the 2024 NEET-UG examination.

The government claimed the institute’s analysis of the test for two years (2023 and 2024) failed to find any abnormality.

The analysis was carried out for students who had secured the top 1.4 lakh ranks, given that the total number of seats across the country is around 1.1 lakh.

The National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test is conducted by the National Testing Agency. This year, the test was held on May 5.

After the results of this year’s examination were announced on June 4, allegations of question paper leaks and other irregularities came to light.

Several aspirants alleged that an inflation of marks had led to 67 candidates securing the top rank, including six from the same examination centre. Some reports also alleged that at some centres, the question paper was leaked before the examination.

In June, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the grace marks given to 1,563 students in the examination will be cancelled. Those candidates were given the choice to either appear for a re-examination or retain their original scores, which would exclude the compensatory marks that had been given to them.

The Central Bureau of Investigation on June 22 filed a first information report on a complaint by the director of the Department of Higher Education in the Union education ministry.

In its complaint to the central agency, the ministry alleged that “certain isolated incidents occurred in a few states” during the entrance examination.

The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions pertaining to the alleged irregularities.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said that while there is no doubt that the question paper for the undergraduate National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test was leaked, the extent of the leak will determine if a retest needs to be ordered.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala said that if the extent of the question paper leak is not extensive, “then there is no cancellation [of the examination]”.

“Before we order a retest, we must be careful,” the bench said. “We are dealing with the careers of 23 lakh students.”

Also read: