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Subject Experts Best Judges In Academic Matters: Kerala High Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Correction Of NEET UG Answer Key

Hannah M Varghese
19 Nov 2021 9:45 AM GMT
Subject Experts Best Judges In Academic Matters: Kerala High Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Correction Of NEET UG Answer Key
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The Kerala High Court recently dismissed a writ petition challenging a particular answer given in the NEET-UG 2021 Answer Key published by National Testing Agency (NTA ) on finding that there was no "glaring mistake" to show that the answer was wrong.Justice N. Nagaresh opined that in such matters, academic experts were the best judges:"It is a settled proposition of law that in academic...

The Kerala High Court recently dismissed a writ petition challenging a particular answer given in the NEET-UG 2021 Answer Key published by National Testing Agency (NTA ) on finding that there was no "glaring mistake" to show that the answer was wrong.

Justice N. Nagaresh opined that in such matters, academic experts were the best judges:

"It is a settled proposition of law that in academic matters the academicians and academic bodies are the experts. This will be especially so when the examinations are related to admission to higher professional courses. It will be highly improper for the courts to go into the correctness of the answers contained in the Answer Key unless of course, the answers are glaring mistakes. Experts are the best judges in such matters." 

The plea was filed by a NEET-UG 2021 candidate who scored 695 out of 720 securing an All India rank of 293. The primary prayer in his petition was a directive to NTA to revise its Answer Key for Question No.184 of Question Paper Coded '05' as 'Option No.4' instead of 'Option No.1' and revise the marks awarded to the petitioner consequent thereto. 

The impugned question is produced below:

"184. Veneral diseases can spread through:
(a) Using Sterile Needles,
(b) Transfusion of blood from an infected person,
(c) Infected Mother to Foetus,
(d) Kissing,
(e) Inheritance        
         Choose the correct answer from the options given below:                
         (1) (b) and (c) only
         (2) (a) and (c) only
         (3) (a), (b) and (c) only
         (4) (b), (c) and (d) only"

The petitioner opted No (4). However, when the Answer Key was released, the answer was given as Option No.1 

Contentions Raised:

Advocate P. Deepak appearing for the petitioner argued that he had challenged the answer given in the Answer Key before the respondents and paid the requisite fee, but it was rejected.

According to paragraph 13.2.3 of the Information Bulletin, NTA is bound to verify a challenge made by a candidate to the Provisional Answer Key with the help of a panel of experts. However, the petitioner argued that in this case, this has not been done, thereby resulting in a grave miscarriage of justice.

It was argued that the stand of the respondents that Option No.1 to Question No.184 is the correct answer, is ex-facie erroneous. To say that venereal diseases can spread only by 'transfusion of blood from infected person' and through 'infected mother to the foetus' and not by 'kissing', is clearly at variance with even the rudimentary textbooks on venereal diseases, the counsel argued, producing several academic materials to evidence his claims. 

In response, Standing Counsel for NTA Nirmal S pointed out that the Subject Experts scrutinized 443 challenges to Question No.184 and opined that there was no change in the provisional answer keys to the question. The conclusion of the Subject Experts cannot be interfered with in a proceeding under Article 226, he argued.

The submission of NTA was that an infected person is required for transmission of venereal disease. Option (d) does not indicate that the intended kissing is by an infected person. So unless the kissing is by an infected person, there is no likelihood of spread of venereal diseases.

ASGI S. Manu also appeared for the Union in the matter. 

Observations:

The Court perused the arguments raised by the parties and found the stand of the Subject Experts convincing.

When options (b) and (c) specifically speak about the existence of an infected person for transmission of venereal diseases, the other options should be read in that context.

"The approach and sharpness of the students answering questions in a competitive examination for admission to a high professional Degree Course are important. This Court finds that the reasoning given by the respondents, based on the opinion of Subject Experts, to conclude that Sl.No. (1), (b) and (c) is the correct answer, is convincing."

Accordingly, the Court found no reason to interfere in the Answer key published by the respondents and consequently dismissed the petition. The facts involved in the present case do not warrant any interference in the Answer Keys, it said.

Case Title: Tejas Girish Menon v Union of India & Anr.

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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