New Delhi (PTI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the response of the Centre and the National Testing Agency on a plea seeking fresh conduct of medical entrance exam NEET-UG, 2024, on the grounds of alleged question paper leak and other malpractices.

Taking note of the allegations of paper leak and other malpractices, a vacation bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah said, "It is not that simple that because what you have done is sacrosanct. Sanctity has been affected, so we need answers."

The top court, however, refused to stay the counselling of successful candidates for admissions to MBBS, BDS and other courses.

Besides the Centre and the NTA, which conducts NEET-UG, the bench also issued notices to the Bihar government. There were allegations of malpractice in the exam in the state.

"How much time do you want? Immediately on the re-opening? Otherwise, the counselling will start," the bench said.

It tagged the plea filed by Shivangi Mishra and nine other MBBS aspirants with a pending one and asked the NTA to file the response in the meantime. The top court's benches will resume regular hearings on July 8 after the summer vacation which commenced on May 20.

NEET-UG, 2024, was held on May 5 and results were declared on June 4. It was expected to be declared on June 14.

The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG) examination is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admissions to MBBS, BDS and AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

"Issue notice. In the meantime, the response will be filed by the National Testing Agency," the bench said.

It, however, did not agree to the submission of lawyer Mathews J Nedumpara, appearing for the students, that the counselling of students be stayed in the meantime. "Let the counselling start, we are not stopping the counselling... We will not stop the counselling. If you argue further, we will dismiss this,” the bench said.

The apex court bench took note of submissions that the fresh plea be tagged along with the earlier similar petition on which a bench headed by CJI DY Chanrdarchud had issued notices to the Centre and the NTA on May 17 and that plea was already listed on July 8.

It allowed the submissions.

The fresh plea alleged that NEET-UG, 2024, was riddled with malpractices as various instances of alleged paper leaks have come to the knowledge of the petitioners.

The alleged leak was violative of Article 14 (right to equality) under the Constitution as it gave an undue advantage to some candidates over others who chose to attempt the examination in a fair manner, it said.

Shivangi Mishra and others had filed the plea on June 1 before the declaration of the NEET-UG results. After the declaration of the results, a few more petitions have been filed in the top court against the NTA's decision to award grace marks to several candidates. Those pleas are yet to be listed for hearing.

On May 17, the CJI-led bench refused to grant a stay on the results of the NEET-UG 2024. It, however, had agreed to issue notice on the plea for re-examination.

Similar petitions are pending in different high courts as well.

One of the petitions before the Supreme Court has specifically referred to the allegations that the paper was leaked in Patna and wrong question papers were given to candidates

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Ayodhya (UP) (PTI): Chairman of Ram Temple Construction Committee Nripendra Mishra said on Monday that the first floor of the Ram temple at Ayodhya will be completed by July this year, and expressed the hope that the construction of the temple will be completed by December.

He said marble from Rajasthan will be used in making the 'Ram Darbar' and the seven temples. Four sculptors have been shortlisted for this work, he added.

Speaking to reporters in Ayodhya, Mishra said, "The first floor of the temple, which is under construction, will be completed by the end of July. After July, the construction of the second floor will only remain. So, we are hopeful that by December, the construction of the temple will be complete," Mishra said.

On the recent controversy in a section of the media about 'teeka' not being applied on the foreheads of the devotees visiting the Ram temple, Mishra said, it was not applied to the devotees who used to come earlier. They used to have a 'darshan' of the Lord and then go out.

"Teeka was applied to some special people who used to come from another 'dwar' (gate). So, it is completely misleading to say that the Lord's 'teeka' and 'charnamrit' are not being given.

"No new embargo has been put. Everybody is being given equal treatment, be it an ordinary devotee or a special (person)," Mishra said.

The idol of Ram Lalla was consecrated at the Ayodhya temple on January 22, a landmark event led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also gave a clarion call to go beyond the grand temple's construction to build the foundation of a "strong, capable and divine" India of the next 1,000 years.

As the inauguration of the temple marked the culmination of a decades-long campaign, mostly under the Hindutva banner, to reclaim a disputed religious site in Ayodhya, Modi said it was the advent of a new era.

Lakhs of people watched the 'pran pratishtha' (consecration) ceremony on television at their homes and in neighbourhood temples, savouring the historic moment just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and 34 years after BJP veteran L K Advani's iconic 'Mandir Wahin Banayenge ' speech during his rath yatra that shaped Ram mandir politics.

Mishra said more than 1.75 crore devotees have visited the temple from January 22 till June 23.

On average, one lakh devotees visit the temple daily. By the end of this month, we expect that 2 crore devotees would have visited the temple, he said.