The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside an order of the Madras High Court that had granted 196 grace marks to nearly 24,000 students who had taken the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test in Tamil, PTI reported. The top court in July had stayed the verdict.

The examination selects candidates to undergraduate and postgraduate medical colleges and dental courses in the country.

A bench of Justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao was hearing an appeal filed by the Central Board of Secondary Education against the High Court verdict. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had awarded four grace marks each for 49 questions – 196 marks in total – to students who had attempted the exam in Tamil after it was revealed that certain questions were translated ambiguously from English.

The judges said that the High Court’s method is “manifestly arbitrary and unjustified and cannot be sustained”.

“For these reasons, we set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court of Madras dated July 10, 2018,” said the bench. It said that the undergraduate NEET examination from the next academic session (2019-2020) will be conducted by the National Testing Agency and the bilingual examination will be conducted after the question paper has been translated.

The Supreme Court said that the High Court had “lost sight of its primary duty in such matter that is to avoid arbitrary results”.

“Because of a mistake in translation which could have been detected and avoided by the students, we find it unjust that all the students across the board who took the examination in Tamil have been awarded four marks for all the 49 questions without any reference to the answer of those questions,” the bench said.

The High Court had made no attempt to examine if the students awarded the grace marks had answered the questions they claimed were incorrectly translated and had instead proceeded to give the full marks for 49 questions to all candidates who had opted to write the examination in Tamil, observed the bench.