Medical school: Closer on TVMedical school: Closer on TV

As was being speculated, the Supreme Court of India has cancelled the All India Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Test (AIPMT) for the academic session 2015-2016 and has asked the organising body, the Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE), to re-conduct the test within four weeks, which the CBSE today told the apex court was impossible.

The Supreme Court decision will ensure that meritless beneficiaries of the recently uncovered cheating ring won't be gifted medical seats, but it will be a logistical nightmare as over 6.3 lakh medical aspirants will have to re-appear for the test.

Meanwhile, the CBSE which normally spends several months organising the test will now be under severe pressure to adhere to the deadline without compromising on the exam's quality.

So why did they even cancel the AIPMT?

After a tip-off was given to Haryana police on the test day, it was found that a Haryana-based gang was involved in a country wide syndicate, which helped candidates cheat on tests.

The gang, which also includes several doctors and few medical students who had won seats in prestigious medical colleges through similar means, provided the willing candidates with correct answers during the test through electronic spying gadgets, in exchange for sums of Rs 15-20 lakh.

20 lakh rupees?! That’s rather pricey…

It was a high-tech operation.

Candidates were provided with specially designed vests (available in black and grey for gents, and white for ladies) manufactured by a Delhi-based electronic gadgets shop, aptly called “SPY SHOP” at four times the market rate.

The vest was equipped with micro-SIM devices. Bluetooth wireless tranceivers were also used, as was “an electronic device tied on his left hand with speaker in the ear”.

One student used a spy camera inside a wrist watch, presumably to record the exam paper. Answer keys from leaked papers were solved by an expert doctor and transmitted to candidates' devices (though ironically some of 123 solved answers found on one mobile phone, only 102 were correct).

On the test day, the use of 21 such devices was reported across various test centres in several states.

Wow, that's pretty James Bond. Who could stop it?

Only the Supreme Court, of course.

Following the expose, a few who took the test approached the Supreme Court with writ petitions, challenging the test claiming that it stood “irreversibly vitiated” by use of unfair means and malpractices.

Until 11 June, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the scandal confirmed that there were at least 44 beneficiaries who were supplied with answer keys during the examination by the gang who allegedly appeared for the test at centres in Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Chandigarh, Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

The SIT also said that many more are yet to be caught, as there were 358 suspected mobile numbers of beneficiaries being probed.

It was also revealed that in the past, the same gang had unfairly benefited candidates in several other competitive exams too.

Was cancellation of the test the only option?

To decide the petitions, the Supreme Court bench of justices RK Agrawal and Amitava Roy was faced with two options: either to segregate the 44 known beneficiaries of cheating and withhold their results, pending the investigation.

Or, they could cancel the test and order a fresh exam.

Considering the modus operandi of cheating, which involved the use of hi-tech gadgets, the court believed that there may be many more who were a part of the syndicate who were yet to be busted, and that would unfairly prejudice the meritorious medical aspirants who did not cheat.

Observing that public confidence in the entrance process has to be maintained, it ruled that the following imperatives cannot be compromised with at any cost: guarantee of fairness, transparency, authenticity and sanctity of the process.

Holding that in the prevailing circumstances, a re-test was the only viable option, the court observed: “We all owe this, in the minimum, to the society in general and the student community in particular.”

So just because of a few cheaters, 6 lakh will have to do the exam again?

“It’s a price to be paid for maintaining the sanctity of the test,” said the court.

While observing that the re-test would cause severe inconvenience to all involved in the process, it justified its decision by holding that it is the price stakeholders would have to suffer in order to maintain the impeccable and irrefutable sanctity and credibility of a process of examination.

Also, without paying that price, the ranking and merit positions between candidates, would not necessarily reflect sincere candidates' innate worth and capability because cheaters might bump them out of the ranking.

Will this not affect the schedule for the medical-admission process set by Supreme Court?

In a 2005 judgment- Mridul Dhar v. Union of India, Supreme Court had prescribed a time schedule for various events occurring in the pre-medical exam process and directed the authorities conducting such tests across India to strictly follow that timetable.

While the results must be declared by June 10, the admission process has to be concluded by September 30 every year.

In the present judgment, the Supreme Court accepted that cancelling the test would disturb the schedule that the apex court had observed in 2005.

However, it has held that “departure from the said time schedule per se would not be a wholesome justification to sustain the otherwise tainted exercise”.

The court found that the 2005 judgment did not intend to make the schedule inflexible in cases like the present. This observation contrasts slightly with the long-standing view that the 2005-established schedule must be strictly adhered with at all times.

Are four weeks for the re-test, sufficient?

Clearly not, according to what solicitor Ranjit Kumar acting for the CBSE today told the Supreme Court: conducting a re-exam in one month would not be possible, he said.

During the course of initial arguments in the case, the CBSE tried its best to convince the court not to cancel the test submitting that the entire test process cannot be redone in four months.

The court was kindly and appreciated the hard work put in by the CBSE and others involved, but it was unconvinced.

The judges noted that in the past re-rests have been conducted within a month’s time and asked the CBSE to co-ordinate with the participant institutions and carry out the process without any delay. They even said that, albeit delayed, to keep the timetable in the same pattern as mandated by the Supreme Court in the 2005 Mridul Dhar decision.

But can they beat the James Bonds in four weeks? Are they going to frisk 6 lakh candidates?

While it is important that concerned authorities match the pace of the advancements in technology, which are in the nefarious employ of cheaters and organised criminals, it's not certain if they can manage that for the re-test in only four weeks.

The court has told any and all agencies to help the CBSE, so maybe the Board will get access to some super-advanced scanners, jammers and other counter-espionage gadgets to beat them at their own game?

On top of that, with today’s CBSE plea that they will take at least three months just to organise the test, there’s likely to be a longer timeline ahead.

In any case, it is likely that admissions tests will never be the same again…

Mohit Singh is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India.

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Like +3 Object -0 CLAT? 18 Jun 15, 15:20
If a few cheaters can get a retest done, loads of wrong answers in CLAT should definitely get a re-test. What is the update from the courts on this?
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Like +0 Object -2 Guest 18 Jun 15, 15:49
Series of problems to retest AIPMT is yet to be unfolded which would shatter the moral of the genuine students.SC to be blamed fully!!!Now stakeholders, be ready to pay the price as hon'ble SC has directed.
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 19 Jun 15, 09:45
My personal opinion is that it is not IMPOSSIBLE to conduct the re test for AIPMT by CBSE considering the resources available with the CBSE.
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Like +0 Object -0 shivani 20 Jun 15, 09:49
its good to have retest but the loss government has faced is not good. Onwards now special care has to be taken against cheating process.
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Like +2 Object -0 Anon 23 Jun 15, 20:40
Are the Allahabad HC and SC in conspiracy with RMLNLU? If an exam with 6.3 lakh aspirants is told to be structured again within 4 weeks, why hasn't RMLNLU been told to accept the prima facie wrong questions? Accepting 2 mistakes by some "expert committee" has made a mockery out of CLAT
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