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NEET row: Supreme Court to hear review plea by 6 states today


New Delhi, Sep 03: The Supreme Court will take up on Friday a petition filed by ministers of six opposition-ruled states seeking review of its August 17 order allowing holding of NEET and JEE exams physically amid coronavirus pandemic.

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A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, B R Gavai, and Krishna Murari will consider the review plea in chambers. The review matters in the top court are usually considered 'in-chambers' through circulation of the petition among all the judges of the bench.

The judges then decide 'in-chambers' whether there is any merit in the review petition to re-examine the case in the open court hearing.

The review plea has been filed by ministers from West Bengal (Moloy Ghatak), Jharkhand (Rameshwar Oraon), Rajasthan (Raghu Sharma), Chhattisgarh (Amarjeet Bhagat), Punjab (B S Sidhu) and Maharashtra (Uday Ravindra Sawant).

The ministers had claimed that the top court order failed to secure students' "right to life" and ignored "teething logistical difficulties" to be faced in conducting the exams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plea, filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, said the apex court order fails to satisfy safety and security concerns of students appearing for the exams.

On Aug 17, the top court had refused to interfere with the conduct of medical and engineering entrance exams -- NEET and JEE scheduled to take place in September saying that life must go on and students can't lose a precious year due to the pandemic.

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The apex court had dismissed a plea by one Sayantan Biswas and others seeking direction to National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts both the NEET and JEE exams, to postpone them after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured that all safeguards would be taken.

Terming the decision to conduct the exams as irrational, the plea said the top court failed to appreciate that the Union Government had adequate time to establish at least one centre for every district for NEET (UG) and JEE (Mains) rather than having several centres in one district.

The mere fact that lakhs of students have registered for the exam is not indicative of their consent or their willingness or their desire to attend physical exams, the plea said.

The August 17 order is cryptic, non-speaking and does not discuss the various aspects and complexities involved in a matter of this magnitude and complex nature, it said.

The plea further said that only two reasons given by the court life must go on and students should not lose an academic year do not constitute an authoritative and comprehensive judicial scrutiny of the issue.

It said that the apex court's observation that Life Must Go On may have very sound philosophical underpinnings but cannot be a substitute for valid legal reasoning and logical analysis of the various aspects involved in the conduct of the NEET UG and JEE exams.

The plea said that the review petitioners do not wish to make any value Judgment or Political criticism of the Union Government in such times but the undisputed facts are that there has been an exponential increase in both the COVID-19 positive cases as well as the deaths/mortality arising out of COVID-19 from April 2020.

It is rather ironic that at the initial stage when there were much lesser number of COVID-19 positive cases, the examinations were postponed and now when the daily spread of the virus is at its peak the examinations are directed to be conducted forthwith, the plea said.

The Joint Entrance Exam (JEE)-Mains for admission to engineering colleges,has however started already.

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