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Allegations of MDCAT paper leak surface again as students move SHC

Over a dozen students filed a petition in the Sindh High Court and challenged the retake of the Nov 19 Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT), alleging that the exam paper was leaked a night before the test.

A division bench of the SHC, headed by acting Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, issued notices to the provincial health secretary, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as well as federal and provincial law officers for Dec 14.

The petitioners — Laiba Zafar, Kainat Qadeer, Vishaka Parkash, Hari Om, Mehak, Tasheeba Tariq, Taqi Aziz, Alishba Fatima, Hassan Bin Shahid, Sameer Kumar, Mehran Qadeer, Mohammad Ismail, Sumeet Kumar and Zehra Abdul Sattar — petitioned the SHC and submitted that the MDCAT 2023-24 was re-conducted on Nov 19 by the DUHS but the test paper was leaked again and sold for Rs1.1 million a night before the scheduled exams.

The petitioners submitted that, surprisingly, the content of the test paper was in fact identical to questions mentioned in the first MDCAT held on Sept 10 and, thus, once again, the test had become controversial as the sanctity of the exam was compromised. Bench issues notices to PMDC, DUHS, others for 14th; petitioners claim paper sold for Rs1.1m night before the retake

The counsel for the petitioners argued that as per unofficial results circulating on social media, a significant number of students had scored 200 out of 200 marks for the first time, which indicated that the test was compromised.

They further contended that this fact alone strongly suggested that those students may have accessed the test paper a day before the exams, raising serious concerns about the fairness and integrity of the test.

On Nov 2, the SHC, through a short order, had dismissed two petitions filed by dozens of candidates against re-conducting of MDCAT since the PMDC had also supported the retake of the test and the high court had allowed the authorities concerned to go ahead with the MDCAT exams afresh.

The lawyers for the petitioners submitted that initially, MDCAT 2023-24 was conducted on Sept 10 by the Jinnah Sindh Medical University, but the same was mishandled due to leakage of test paper and its circulation on social media.

Thereafter, an inquiry committee had investigated the matter and found significant evidence about unauthorised release of the test paper and the inquiry report was duly approved by the Sindh cabinet and decided to retake the MDCAT through DUHS, they maintained.

The petitioners’ lawyers also argued that the second MDCAT was conducted on Nov 19, but the test paper was leaked again and circulated among the students/candidates whereas certain screenshots had also been obtained by the petitioners whereby the test paper was being sold for Rs1.1m.

They submitted that they had approached the respondents while submitting various grievances, but they chose to ignore the concerns raised by them.

They said that the en masse unfair means in the MDCAT had not only shattered the confidence of public in the examination system but also piecemeal cancellation of the examinations and would encourage the racket involved in the cheating, which remained unnoticed.

The petitioners were of the view that they had successfully passed the MDCAT conducted by DUHS, but they were aggrieved by the acts of persons who had jeopardised the exam by leaking the test paper whereby causing severe injustice as some students who had cheated in the exam, scored better marks than students who had passed the same due to their hard work.

They maintained that MDCAT results carried 50 per cent of the total 100 marks. Hence, even a small edge in the total marks by using unfair means would give unfair advantage to the students who were able to cheat in the examination.

The counsel for petitioners also argued that a letter written by the health secretary to PMDC after the first MDCAT clearly summarised that the investigation conducted by FIA, wherein nine phone numbers that were implicated in the process of exam leakage, were being investigated.

However, they said that despite a comprehensive inquiry into the MDCAT held on Sept 10, no discernible action was taken, and lack of follow up measures raised concerns regarding accountability and responsiveness of the authorities involved.

Citing a judgement of the SHC reported in 2020 as well as an order of Indian Supreme Court on the subject issue, the petitioners asked the bench to issue directive to the respondents to conduct the MDCAT yet again through any reputed and uncontroversial university as per law.

They also pleaded to declare the MDCAT conducted by DHUS as null and void, and sought a restraining order for respondents from initiating or proceeding with the admission process until the discrepancies were adequately addressed.

However, after a preliminary hearing, a two-judge bench headed by acting Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi in its order said, “Let pre-admission notice be issued to the respondents as well as advocate general Sindh as well as DAG [deputy attorney general] to be served through first three modes for 14.12.2023, when reply/objections, if any, may be filed by the respondents with advance copy to learned counsel for petitioners”.

Title : Allegations of MDCAT paper leak surface again as students move SHC
Author : Daily Dawn
Type : News
Role Performer : Corporate Author
Subject : MDCAT controversy: Alleged paper leak prompts legal challenge and calls for fairness
Publisher : Daily Dawn
Publication Place : Islamabad
Date : 2023-12-05
Language : English