NEET-UG row: 5 more held in Bihar for ‘paper leak’, State govt notifies transfer of probe to CBI

The Bihar government issued a notification on Sunday evening to transfer the case in connection with alleged irregularities in NEET-UG to the CBI, paving the way for the central agency to take over the investigation.

The move came after the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of Bihar Police arrested five more suspects, who were detained from Deoghar in Jharkhand on Saturday, taking the total number of those apprehended to 18.

Earlier in the day, the CBI filed an FIR over the NEET “paper leak” on a reference from the Union education ministry, amid countrywide protests and litigation by students for a probe into the claims.

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The Bihar Home Department, in the notification, accorded its consent to CBI in order to investigate the FIR dated June 5 registered at Shastrinagar Police station in Patna.

“… The case registered under section 407,408,409,120B of the IPC, which relates to irregularities in NEET UG 2024 examination held on May 5. The CBI team is expected to soon visit Patna to take over the investigation of the case. The EOU will hand over all the updated case records to the CBI,” it said.

The EOU, in a statement, said the five arrested persons have been identified as Baldev Kumar, Mukesh Kumar, Panku Kumar, Rajeev Kumar and Paramjeet Singh, all hailing from Nalanda.

Baldev Kumar, associated with the notorious Sanjeev Kumar alias Lutan Mukhiya gang, allegedly received the solved answer sheet of the NEET-UG exam in PDF format on his mobile phone a day before the exam.

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The statement implicated members of the Mukhiya gang, accused of orchestrating multiple interstate paper leaks, as the source of the leaked answer sheet.

Further investigation revealed that Baldev and his associates printed and distributed the solved answer sheet to students gathered at a safe house in Ram Krishna Nagar in Patna on May 4 for memorisation. The aspirants were brought there by two previously arrested persons, Nitish Kumar and Amit Anand.

According to the EOU statement, the leaked NEET-UG question paper was obtained from a private school in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, by the Mukhiya gang.

Investigators matched a partially burnt question paper recovered from the Patna safe house with the reference question paper provided by the National Testing Agency (NTA), confirming the leak’s origin, it said.

Standard procedures for handling and transporting question papers, as set by the NTA, were also allegedly disregarded by those involved in the breach.

The EOU interrogated several persons linked to the custody chain of the question papers, including bank officials and employees of a courier company.

A manhunt is on to nab Mukhiya and his other gang members, it said.

Rajeev Kumar, Panku Kumar and Paramjeet Singh were arrested for providing duplicate mobile SIMs, phones and accommodation to Baldev Kumar and his associates in Deoghar, the EOU said.

Mukesh Kumar, a taxi driver, was also arrested for facilitating transport for the accused and aspirants within Patna.

The statement said 15 aspirants identified by the NTA were being scrutinised, with four already questioned, while the remainder are yet to appear for examination by investigators.

The EOU had last month arrested 13 people in connection with the case.

The NEET-UG exam, involving around 24 lakh candidates, was conducted by the NTA on May 5, with results announced on June 4, amid subsequent allegations of paper leaks and irregularities across Bihar and other States.

As demands for cancellation of the May 5 exam grow, Union Education Ministry officials reiterated the government’s earlier stand that the incidents of malpractices were “localised” or “isolated” and it was not fair to jeopardise the careers of lakhs of candidates who cleared the exam rightfully.

The exam is conducted by the NTA for admissions to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

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