SC Sets Aside Madras HC Order Awarding 196 Marks To Those Who Took NEET Exam In Tamil [Read Judgment]

SC Sets Aside Madras HC Order Awarding 196 Marks To Those Who Took NEET Exam In Tamil [Read Judgment]

 ‘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 Supreme Court of India set aside a Madras High Court judgment that directed the Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE) to award 196 marks to candidates who wrote this year National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) in Tamil.

The bench comprising of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed that knowledge of the subject in English was considered a requirement and the candidates could have detected and avoided mistranslation  be referring to English questions.

The High Court verdict had come as a relief for nearly 24,000 students who took the examination in Tamil when it held that they are entitled to four grace marks for each incorrectly translated question therefore, each of these students are entitled to a total of 196 grace marks. The CBSE and some other students had approached the Apex court against this verdict.

The apex court bench essentially took note of the following clause in NEET-UG, 2018, regulations: “In case of any ambiguity in translation of any of the questions, its English version shall be treated as final.”

It said that the students appearing for the NEET-UG, 2018 Examination applied for admission to the course of MBBS/BDS which is entirely taught in English. Referring to the clause, the bench said that it implies that knowledge of the subject in English was considered a requirement and students were expected to resolve any ambiguity by reference to the questions in English Language. We must make note that there is no grievance whatsoever that there was any difficulty about the questions in English language, the court added.

The bench said that the errors were not factual and could have easily been answered by referring to the English Version. It said: “If one has a look at actual discrepancies in the questions that were said to have created confusion, it seems that the word with the imprecise meaning could have been easily discovered to be faulty and a simple reference to the English version would have clarified the same. A simple reference to the context in which the imprecise word occur in the Tamil version would show that the word could not have that meaning at all and there was obviously some mistake which needed to be resolved by reference to the English version.”

The court took note of the submission by CBI that from the next academic year 2019-20, the NEET Examination will be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), a society set up by the Government of India with the objective of conducting examination for grant of admission etc. Following measures will be taken to make translation ‘fool proof’



  • The translation will be done by subject experts who are proficient in both the languages i.e. the source language and the target language

  • The translation will be done from the target language to the source language and back to the target language. Thus, for example a question in English translated in Tamil will be retranslated back to English. This dual translation approach will remove any chance of ambiguity in the question paper.

  • In spite of this safeguard, it is proposed that in case of any ambiguity between a regional language and English it will the English version which will be final.


We find this last mentioned clause is extremely significant to ensure that the students have some basic knowledge of English even if they are allowed the facility to write the examination in their regional language. Presumably, this is because the entire education for MBBS/BDS courses throughout the country are taught in English, the bench said.

Setting aside the High court order, the bench observed that no attempt in the impugned judgement to have the marks evaluated by an independent expert body instead the High Court resorted to blind allocation of full marks for each of the questions. It said: “High Court has made no attempt to see whether the students have in fact attempted answers to the questions, which were claimed to be imperfectly translated and has proceeded to award the full marks for 49 questions to all candidates who had opted to give the examination in Tamil. The method adopted by the High Court is manifestly arbitrary and unjustified and cannot be sustained.”

The court further explained the arbitrariness caused by the High court verdict. It said: “The list of students who opted to give the NEET-UG, 2018 Examination in Tamil after the addition of 196 marks is startling. For instance, a student who got 260 marks has been awarded a total of 456 marks. A student with 137 marks becomes entitled to 333 marks and the student who got 92 marks becomes entitled to 288 marks. Even students who have 21 marks been entitled to 217 marks. It is clear that the High Court lost sight of the primary duty of Court in such matter that is to avoid arbitrary results.”