NEET 2018: Tamil Nadu candidates to be reallotted exam centres

Somesh S Menon | Apr 30, 2018 - 1:11 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI, April 30: The High Court of Madras has ordered the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to reallot the NEET 2018 exam centres for those candidates from Tamil Nadu who were allotted centres in distant locations outside the state.

A two member Bench comprising Justices Huluvadi G Ramesh and M Dhandapani ruled that the CBSE must in a reasonable manner “allot examination centres for those candidates, to write their examinations nearby to their place of residence, or the adjacent Districts or at least within the State of Tamil Nadu, at the earliest”.

The decision brings relief to all the affected candidates who despite choosing exam centres located close to their place of residence were allotted centres in faraway locations without any justification. Infact, the CBSE had particularly specified in the NEET 2018 Information Bulletin that candidates planning to appear for NEET in a vernacular language should choose their three exam centre options from their home state only while filling the NEET application form. Not only did the subsequent allotment not take into consideration the fact that students would have to travel thousands of kilometres to attempt the three-hour exam, but also that the centres allotted to them may not even be able to provide the question papers in their preferred language.

Earlier, the CBSE had issued a notice regarding exam centres on April 18, 2018, as per which the NEET 2018 exam conducting body had claimed that “the allotment is entirely computerized with no human intervention and as such, after allotment, there is no provision of any change in exam centre or exam centre city under any circumstances”.

Background

The Writ Petition challenging the allotment of exam centres, filed on behalf of the affected candidates by advocate S. Kalimuthu Mylavan, demanded that the CBSE “re-allot the examination centres for the Tamil Nadu NEET candidates within the NEET examination centres nearest to their residence situated within the State of Tamil Nadu”. As per the petition, the candidates downloaded their NEET 2018 admit cards once they were released by the CBSE on April 17 and “were shocked to note that the examination centres...were allotted in other states and not as per their choice of the examination centre, situated within the state of residence as mentioned in their applications.”

Arguments

The two main contentions raised by the petitioners were that firstly, all the affected candidates were residing in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, namely Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Nagercoil and Trichy. Despite there being 10 NEET centres in Tamil Nadu - Chennai, Coimbatore, Kancheepuram, Madurai, Namakkal, Salem, Thiruvallur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli and Vellore – with each having the capacity to accomodate these candidates, they had inexplicably been allotted centres in Kerala and Rajasthan states. Secondly, as a result of this allotment, the candidates, who are all minors aged 17 years, “will find it very difficult to travel alone for such a long distance from their residence. Further, they have to find out accommodation in the place of examination”. The petition stressed up on the fact that each of the candidates was from a financially poor background and it was highly unfair to expect them to travel such long distances for appearing in the examinations.

In its defence, the CBSE argued that it was too late to change the exam centres for such a small number of candidates given that “all the preparations to conduct the examination have been completed, centre material has been sent to the examination centres, roll numbers have been generated and issued and all the officials and observers have been issued the duty places and all preparations for performing the journey have been completed”.

What the High Court ordered

Dismissing the CBSE’s argument that “the Board reserved its discretion to allot a centre other than the candidate’s choice”, the High Court said that the Board did not exercise the necessary discretion at the time of allotting centres to these candidates, given that the allotmentwould amount to financial burden on each of the candidates”. As per the Court, “Because of allotment of centres in other states, the candidates will have to travel a long distance and they will be financial implications on those candidates. It appears that many candidates who have applied are from rural areas who may not be able to afford for travelling and for accommodation”. Another factor the Bench stressed upon when instructing the CBSE to reallot the exam centres was regarding the safety of candidates.

Therefore, the CBSE would now provide centres to candidates as per their choice, which would be close to their residence or atleast in adjacent districts. “Necessarily, it should be within the State of Tamil Nadu and not far-off places”, the Court ruled.

Check the verdict below -

Madras HC Order 1

Madras HC Order 2

CBSE Instructions on exam centres

As per the NEET 2018 information bulletin published by CBSE, candidates were specifically asked to “ensure that they should select the centre in their state of residence or in neighbouring city only and not in faraway cities in other states”. By allotting these candidates centres at such a distance however, the CBSE failed to comply with its own guidelines. The CBSE’s assertion that “under no circumstances the choice of centre/cities filled in the application form by the candidates and the allotted centre shall be changed by the Board”, also now stands overturned through the High Court order, and the body will now be allotting new centres to the candidates.

The previously released CBSE instructions regarding NEET exam centres are as given below -

CBSE Exam Centre Instructions

NEET 2018 will be conducted on May 6, 2018, in 2,000 exam centres spread across 150 cities as compared to 107 cities last year. The decision to increase the number of cities was taken to ensure that the exam is conducted in all the districts where there are more than 4,000 candidates taking the single window entrance test. 


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