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NEET- National Testing Agency Bound To Scrupulously Enforce Specific Relaxations For Persons With Disability: Supreme Court

Mehal Jain
23 Nov 2021 5:57 AM GMT
NEET- National Testing Agency Bound To Scrupulously Enforce Specific Relaxations For Persons With Disability: Supreme Court
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"The NTA must remember that all authority under the law is subject to responsibility and above all to a sense of accountability. It is governed by the rule of law and the necessity of observing fairness. As an examining body, the NTA was bound to scrupulously enforce the guidelines for the examination which provide for specific relaxations for persons with disability", ruled the Supreme Court...

"The NTA must remember that all authority under the law is subject to responsibility and above all to a sense of accountability. It is governed by the rule of law and the necessity of observing fairness. As an examining body, the NTA was bound to scrupulously enforce the guidelines for the examination which provide for specific relaxations for persons with disability", ruled the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The bench headed by Justice D. Y. Chandrachud was pronouncing its decision on the plea by a female NEET-2021 candidate suffering from dysgraphia whose grievance was that she was refused an additional one hour's time for attempting the paper by the examination centre. Her prayers were that either she may be allowed a re-examination, or be appropriately compensated by way of grace marks or no negative marking or otherwise.
"The NTA has submitted that in an examination of such a large proportion where over 16, 00,000 students registered and over 15,00, 000 students appeared, it would not be possible to undo the injustice which has been done to a single candidate. The first respondent must remember that all authority under the law is subject to responsibility and above all to a sense of accountability. The first respondent is governed by the rule of law and observing fairness; behind the abstract number of 15 lakh lie human lives which can be altered due to the inadvertent yet significant errors. As an examining body, the NTA was bound to scrupulously enforce the guidelines for the examination which provide for specific relaxations for persons with disability. The appellant has suffered injustice from wrongful denial, and lack of remedy from this court would result in irreparable injustice to the life of the student. The RPWD Act which provides beneficial provisions for persons with disabilities would have no meaning unless scrupulously enforced. The First respondent cannot simply get away when confronted with the situation where injustice has been caused to a student at a large competitive examination, and the same cannot be sent into oblivion on the submission that it is the necessary consequence of a competitive examination", the bench had held.
The bench has issued the following directions-
(1) The relief sought by the appellant for holding re-examination for NEET (undergraduate) is denied.
(2) The appellant was wrongfully denied of compensatory time of one hour for appearing for NEET; without any fault of her own, she was denied her entitlement as a person with benchmark disability. The first respondent is directed to consider what should be taken to rectify the injustice within one week. Further, it shall take all consequential measures with intimation to the director general of health services. The steps taken by the first respondent in furtherance of this direction must be communicated to the registry of this court by filing a status report within a period of two weeks from this judgment.
(3) In future, the first respondent will ensure that the provisions which are made for NEET in view of the rights and entitlements under PWD Act are clarified by removing ambiguity as noticed in the present case.
(4) Having due regard to the decision in Vikash Kumar and the statutory provisions contained in the RPWD act, the rights and entitlements available to the PWD cannot be limited by reading in 'persons with benchmark disabilities'.
(5) For availing reservation under section 32 of the 2016 Act, 'benchmark disability' continues to apply as the standard.
(6) The second respondent i. e. the examination centre, was ignorant of facilities to which the petitioner was entitled to. The examination centres and persons working for the first respondent should be sensitised and trained towards the reasonable accommodation which the PWD are entitled to.
The Supreme Court on Thursday orally told the NTA that its brochure for NEET must carry a segment on candidates with disabilities, enumerating the specific benefits available for them by way of an advance disclosure, and that there must be proper training to the invigilators to ensure these benefits are implemented on the ground.
Justice Chandrachud also observed that the NTA must come up with clear-cut guidelines so that this situation is never repeated in the future-"This child may now lose a year. She could have made it otherwise. It is very heart-breaking. I myself had written the Vikash Kumar judgment (the Supreme Court held that facility of scribe can be provided for persons with disabilities other than those having benchmark disabilities)...the brochure for NEET must have a segment on candidates with disabilities, enumerating the specific benefits available for visually-challenged, hearing-impaired candidates or candidates with dysgraphia. There should be disclosure in advance. Secondly, there should be proper training for invigilators. It is very crucial that they are aware. You as the NTA have bona-fides, but very often, the invigilators on the ground are not aware. Like in this case, her paper was snatched. It is heart-rending...instructions must be given down the line so that these benefits are implemented."
"We had held 5-6 webinars and there was counseling for the invigilators. But we will ensure that this never happens in the future", replied the advocate for the NTA.
Continuing, Justice Chandrachud noted, "Also, there has to be a policy for where the candidate is not at fault. How do you set it right where a candidate is losing out at the last minute when they did not even do anything? Medical education today is so competitive..."
Case Details
Case Title : Avni Prakash versus National Testing Agency and others
Citation : LL 2021 SC 674



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