October 2018
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Supreme Court stays Madras HC order awarding extra marks to NEET Tamil candidates
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Madras High Court directive to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to grant grace marks to students who suffered from the erroneous Tamil translation of 49 questions in the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) for undergraduate medical admissions.

A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao observed that grant of 196 grace marks — four marks for each of the 49 wrongly translated questions — would cause indelible damage to meritorious students across the country, affect the all-India rank list and have a ripple effect on the futures of thousands of other students across the country.

"What will happen to the meritorious students? This is an all-India exam. And this is not some pass marks, but a bonus of 196 marks. These grace marks are given even without taking into consideration that students may have gone wrong in their answers even if the translations were accurate," Justice Rao addressed senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who led the charge against the appeal filed by the CBSE challenging the High Court order.
Cheetah becomes Sita

Acknowledging the plight of the Tamil students, Justice Bobde pointed out how in one of the questions, the word 'cheetah' has been wrongly translated to 'Sita' in Tamil."We can understand inaccuracy but this is leading the students up the wrong path..." he observed orally. But he, however, said he did not quite agree with the "doling out" of grace marks.

Justice Bobde said the grant of grace marks may also put the Tamil medium students more at advantage than the students from the State who had opted to answer their exam in English alone.The Bench scheduled the case after two weeks for a detailed hearing while asking the CBSE and other parties to come up with a solution so that there would no recurrence of similar situation in future.

The court suggested that the CBSE form an expert committee of academicians to vet the questions and their translation in regional languages.Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the CBSE, submitted that Tamil Nadu had been opposing NEET for several years.

The CBSE had blamed the errors on the translators provided by the State government.
'Grace marks may exceed the maximum limit'Mr. Singh said an addition of 196 marks would, in some cases, may make the final marks of some students cross the total maximum marks.The law officer said "everything has been withheld" because of the Madras High Court order.
"The judgment overturns everything," he submitted.

The court froze the High Court decision and issued notice in the appeals. It asked the CBSE to come up with solutions to make the translation process foolproof in future.The CBSE had argued that grant of grace marks would tantamount to discrimination and result in a chaotic situation.

It said that to avoid any hiccups or ambiguity, the question papers were prepared in English and handed over to translators recommended by the State of Tamil Nadu for the purpose.

Students who appeared in the test could simultaneously read both the English and Tamil versions of the questions. The objective of the exercise was to conduct the test with utmost transparency. In case of any ambiguity in translation of any of the questions, its English version shall be treated as final".

The petitioner in the High Court, senior CPI(M) leader and Rajya Sabha member, T.K. Rangarajan, had sought full marks for the 49 questions, saying key words in Tamil questions were wrongly translated from English and this caused confusion among the students.

There were 180 questions with a total mark of 720 in the NEET.

The CBSE conducted the NEET on May 6 in 136 cities in 11 languages, the results of which were announced on June 4.

In Tamil Nadu, about 1.07 lakh candidates took the test across 170 centres in 10 cities.

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