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Lok Sabha Passes Bill To Stop Malpractices In Competitive Exam

by Web Desk
Lok Sabha Passes Bill To Stop Malpractices In Competitive Exam

For years, malpractices in competitive exams have been a serious deterrent to sincere students who refused to be a part of such “activities” during the examination. Many sincere and deserving candidates lost out on opportunities unfairly because of the manner in which things were done. Yesterday, the Central Government introduced the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024 in Parliament. The Bill deals with cases of exam paper leak and tampering with answer sheets in collusion with government officials and other malpractices found in states such as Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat.

Over time, each of these states brought out their own laws to deal with the menace of exam paper leak, but it is supposed that a central law should be more helpful once enforced.

What Are The Broad Features Of The New Public Examinations Bill?

The quantum of punishment proposed is severe. The Centre proposes a minimum three to five years of imprisonment for offences committed. However, for cases of organised crimes, the accused will be sentenced to 5-10 years in jail, and a minimum fine of INR 1 crore will be imposed. For service provider firms in examinations, a fine of up to INR 1 crore, and recovery of proportionate cost of examination have been proposed as punishment. The service provider firm will also be barred from conducting a public examination for four years.

All Recruitment And Entrance Exams Of DoPT Covered

The Bill that is piloted by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions will cover all recruitment and entrance exams such as Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railways, and banking recruitment exams, Common University Entrance Test (CUET), National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).

All computer-based examinations conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) will also come under the purview of the new Public Examinations Bill.

Introducing the bill in Parliament, MoS (Science & Technology) Jitendra Singh said, “The objective is to bring in greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the public examination systems, and to reassure the youths that their sincere and genuine efforts will be fairly rewarded and their futures are safe”.

According to the brief of the draft bill, the government has introduced several reforms to enhance “transparency” in examinations for recruitment as well as admission to higher education institutions.Many states had to cancel or were unable to declare results of public exams in recent past due to unfair practices and means adopted by “anti-social, criminal elements”. It has been observed that organised cells and mafia groups were also involved in some paper leak cases. Hence, the government decided to “effectively prevent and deter” such elements from jeopardising the future and careers of millions of aspiring youths of the country.

The rampant exam paper leaks in Rajasthan had become an electoral issue, forcing the state government to enforce a new law to curb the irregularities.

The Rajasthan Assembly in July 2023 passed a bill to increase the punishment for those involved in government recruitment exam paper leaks from a 10-year jail term to life imprisonment.

Similarly, the Gujarat and UP governments too have brought in laws with stricter punishment and fine up to INR 1 crore for those found guilty of such an act.

The 24th report of the seventh State Law Commission, Uttar Pradesh on the UP Public Examination (Prevention of unfair means, paper-leak and solver gang activities) Bill, 2023 attempted to deal with the issue.

The laws introduced by different states were prompted by several question paper leak cases that came to light in 2022 across Uttarakhand, UP, Himachal and Bihar, owing to which the state government recruitment exams had to be cancelled.

The draft bill highlights the fact that currently there is no specific substantive law at national level to deal with unfair means adopted or offences committed by persons, organised groups, or any other agency/organisation that adversely impacts the conduct of public examinations by Central government and its agencies. According to the ministry, the draft 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.

“Therefore, it is imperative that the elements both within and outside the examination systems, that exploit these vulnerabilities are identified and effectively dealt with by way of a comprehensive Central legislation. There is a need to prevent such criminal elements from playing with lives and hopes of genuine and sincere youths who appear in these examinations,” the document states.

While providing protection to candidates appearing for the exam, the draft bill clearly states that the ‘bonafide candidates/students’ as defined in the bill “shall not be liable for action within the purview of the bill’.

The bill also proposes use of contemporary technology to set up a High level National Technical Committee on Public Examinations to look into developing protocols, fool-proof IT security system, ensuring comprehensive electronic surveillance of the examinations centres and formulating national standards and service levels for both IT and physical infrastructure to conduct an examination.

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