The Centre on Monday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to check malpractices in government recruitment exams such as paper leaks and fake websites, with strict penalties including a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine up to Rs 1 crore.
The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, introduced by Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh, mentions "leakage of question paper or answer key", "directly or indirectly assisting the candidate in any manner unauthorisedly in the public examination" and "tampering with the computer network or a computer resource or a computer system" as offences done by a person, group of persons or institutions.
At present, there is no specific substantive law to deal with unfair means adopted or offences committed by various entities involved in the conduct of public examinations by the central government and its agencies.
Which all exams will be covered under the bill?
The bill will cover entrance examinations held by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the railways, banking recruitment examinations and all computer-based examinations conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
- Exams conducted by the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) including the Civil Services Examination
- Staff Selection Commission (SSC) that conducts recruitment for various posts in the various ministries and departments of the government of India and in subordinate offices
- Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs), who recruit employees for the Indian Railways
- Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), the central recruitment agency for public sector banks except SBI
- All computer-based examinations conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
- The National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET)
- Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)
- Common University Entrance Test (CUET).
- The creation of fake websites to cheat or for monetary gain.
- Conduct of fake examination, issuance of fake admit cards or offer letters to cheat or for monetary gain.
- Manipulation in seating arrangements, allocation of dates and shifts for the candidates to facilitate adopting unfair means in examinations.
- Threatening the life, liberty or wrongfully restraining persons associated with the public examination authority or the service provider or any authorised agency of the government; or obstructing the conduct of a public examination.
What are the penalties?
- A minimum of three to five years of imprisonment to curb cheating.
- Those involved in organised crimes of cheating will face five to 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs 1 crore.
In view of many examinations being conducted online and the increasing role of technology in conduct of public examinations, it has also been decided to set up a high-level national technical committee.
The committee shall look into developing protocol for insulating digital platforms, devising ways and means for developing foolproof information technology (IT) security system, ensuring comprehensive electronic surveillance of the examination centres and formulating national standards and service levels for both, IT and physical infrastructure, to be deployed for conduct of such tests.
The bill shall serve as a model draft for states to adopt at their discretion.
Purpose of the bill
The bill is aimed at preventing organised gangs and institutions that are involved in unfair means for monetary gains, but it protects candidates from its provisions.
The objective is to bring in greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the public examination systems and to reassure the youth that their sincere and genuine efforts will be fairly rewarded and their futures are safe, according to the Union Minister.
The bill is aimed at effectively and legally deterring persons, organised groups or institutions that indulge in various unfair means and adversely impact the public examination systems for monetary or wrongful gains, Singh added.
The move comes against the backdrop of the cancellation of a series of competitive tests such as the teacher recruitment exam in Rajasthan, the Common Eligibility Test (CET) for Group-D posts in Haryana, the recruitment exam for junior clerks in Gujarat and the constable recruitment examination in Bihar following question paper leaks.