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SC Issues Notice On Petition Challenging Award of Bonus Marks For Wrong Questions In IIT JEE (A) Entrance Exam [Read Petition]

The Supreme Court’s Vacation Bench of Justices Abhay Manohar Sapre and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, on Friday, June 30, issued notices to respondents on a petition challenging award of bonus marks by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to candidates who appeared for Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) 2017.   The respondents are the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Union of India and IIT-M.

The JEE was conducted for seven Zonal Coordinating (ZC) IITs under the guidance of the Joint Admission Board (JAB), 2017 on May 21 by IIT-M, and the decision of awarding bonus marks was taken by it only.   Every year, the JEE is conducted in two phases, namely, main and advanced.  The Main examination is conducted as the first stage for admission to National Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Information and Technology, Indian Institute of Sciences and other several reputed institutions for admission to various courses in engineering, technology and other allied fields of higher education.

The Advance examination is conducted as the second phase of written examination for admission to IITs by one of the IITs, and the responsibility to conduct the same this time was bestowed upon IIT-M.   All India Rank list is prepared in accordance with which various IITs are allotted to the successful candidates after counseling.  Counselling was scheduled to be held on June 29.

After the final answer key was declared and published by IIT Madras on June 4, objections were raised by a few candidates over some questions in Paper I and Paper II claiming them to be incorrect and also claiming that the answer key pertaining  to those questions was wrong as several answers could have been attributed to those questions.  Pursuant to these objections, IIT-M decided to award 18 bonus marks to all the candidates appearing for the examination as follows: 11 marks for incorrect questions in Paper II and 7 marks for incorrect questions in Paper I irrespective of whether or not those candidates even attempted to answer the said questions.

The petitioner, Aishwarya Agarwal, a resident of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, has challenged the award of bonus marks as clearly arbitrary and violative of the rights of the candidates who successfully solved the said questions.  It was in pursuance of these bonus marks that a final answer key was published by IIT-M on June 10 and final result was declared on June 11.  The SC bench directed the respondents to respond within a week on why the bonus marks awarded cannot be scrapped.

The petitioner has alleged that the award of bonus marks deprives various meritorious candidates from procuring admission in their preferred IIT as also the branches.  For example, in 2016, where closing rank for Mechanical Engineering in IIT-Bombay was 747 and for Chemical Engineering it was 1427.   Further, there would be many candidates who will not be able to procure admission to IITs on account of non-meritorious candidates bagging their seats.

The petitioner claimed herself as a meritorious student, and apprehended that she might not be able to procure a seat in IIT in branch of her choice.  She pointed out, on the basis of the closing ranks for IIT-Bombay in 2016, even a difference of one mark may lead to the falling of a candidate’s rank by 1000-2000 marks.

The petitioner has also sought an ad interim ex parte stay against the respondents restraining them from proceeding with the counseling as per the JEE (Advanced) 2017 All India Rank List.  The bench, however, refused to grant the stay.

The petitioner, therefore, sought quashing of All India Rank List and offer admission on the basis of a revised All India Rank list.

The petitioner has alleged that due to the distribution of bonus marks, nearly 20,000 students who were not deserving have qualified the cut-off , and some deserving students lagged behind because of the huge difference created in ranks due to this distribution of bonus marks.

The action of providing bonus marks has adversely affected several meritorious candidates as it cannot be assured that each one of the qualified candidates will get admission in IIT because of the limited number of seats available  for admission, the petitioner has argued.

Rather than providing bonus marks to all the candidates, several other ways of reconciling the interest of meritorious candidates with the responsibility of the organizing institution to cure the defects in the question paper were available with IIT-M such as awarding of full marks to all the candidates who attempted the said questions and marked the correct answer which can be different for different papers due to printing  error.

Experts have suggested that the action of providing bonus marks proves harmful to meritorious candidates, and is aimed at saving the people who framed the questions in the paper.

Senior advocate Sushma Suri and advocate, D.K.Devesh appeared for the petitioner.

Read the Petition Here

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