THE MADURAI bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to grant 196 grace marks — four marks each for 49 questions — to all students who appeared for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in Tamil this year. Directing the Board to bring out a fresh list of qualified candidates within two weeks, the court said the ongoing counselling sessions should be “kept in abeyance” till then.
The division bench of Justices C T Selvam and A M Basheer Ahamed passed the order on a PIL filed by T K Rangarajan, CPI(M) MP, who sought full marks for all the 49 questions, saying key words had been wrongly translated in the Tamil question paper.
The NEET-2018 paper, for admission to medical and dental colleges, had 180 questions with total 720 marks. Citing media reports, the petitioner had said that about 24,000 students appeared for the exam in Tamil.
“The Board should revise the list of qualified candidates and publish the same afresh within a period of two weeks from today. It shall then be open to the authorities concerned to go about counselling the eligible candidates,” said the court. “As a necessary corollary to the above, the list of qualified candidates shall be kept in abeyance as would the counselling sessions, pending publishing details of the qualified candidates afresh in keeping with the order of the court,” it said.
In his petition, Rangarajan had said the Tamil translation of 49 questions was either wrong or ambiguous. Citing errors, he said ‘cheetah’ had been translated as ‘seetha’, and technical terms like ‘multiple alleles’ and ‘ureters’ had also been misinterpreted, causing confusion among students.
Stating that the students who appeared for the exam in Tamil should be provided a level playing field, the court said: “The difficulty of a student in taking an examination of such importance, in understanding rightly a wrong question, be howsoever mild the error, is to be appreciated, placing ourselves in his shoes and not in the shoes of those having the leisure of easy chair reflection.”
It said that students from less-privileged backgrounds shouldn’t be deprived of an opportunity to pursue their studies. “Tens of thousands of children, having to support a mother, siblings, ailing parents and elders… by eking out a living, by earning an extra rupee, which keeps the home from burning… pursue their studies simply because they want to be educated. They want to lift themselves from the squalor their lives are in. Why are such students being deprived? It is because they do not put in ‘n’ number of fixed hours of study, or it is because science subjects require practical training which they are not exposed to,” said the court.
While CBSE did not challenge the charge that the paper had errors, it told the court that regional experts had translated the questions. Saying that experts recommended by the respective state governments were engaged for the purpose of translation, CBSE said its role was limited to conducting the examination and declaring the results. It said the question paper, which was set in English, was translated into 10 regional languages, but no other state had raised any complaints.