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Editorial of the Day (6th Feb): Bill to Prevent Unfair means in Public Examinations

Context: The Public Examinations (Prevention Of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024 was introduced in the Lok Sabha.

Why was the Public Examinations (Prevention Of Unfair Means) Bill Introduced?

  • The Bill aims to prevent “unfair means” and to “bring greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the public examinations system”.
  • The government introduced the Bill in response to a significant number of question paper leaks in recruitment exams across India, which have adversely impacted the recruitment process for government jobs.
  • An investigation revealed at least 48 instances of paper leaks in 16 states over five years, affecting over 1.5 million applicants for approximately 120,000 posts.

The Bill aims to address these issues by:

  • Combating Malpractices: It recognizes the negative impact of examination malpractices, such as delays and cancellations, on millions of young people’s futures.
  • Filling Legal Gaps: Currently, there’s no specific law targeting unfair means or offences in public examinations, necessitating a dedicated legislation.
  • Enhancing Transparency and Fairness: The Bill seeks to ensure the examination system is more transparent, fair, and credible, reassuring candidates that their efforts will be justly evaluated.
  • Deterring Unfair Means: It aims to deter individuals, groups, or institutions from exploiting the examination system for financial or wrongful gains.
  • Protecting Candidates: The Bill specifies that candidates will not be liable under this new law and will remain subject to the existing administrative provisions of the relevant examination authorities.
  • Providing a Model for States: The legislation also serves as a draft for states to adopt, helping them combat criminal activities that disrupt state-level public examinations.

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What Are Unfair Means?

As outlined Section 3 of the Bill, includes actions undertaken for monetary or wrongful gain, such as:

  • Leaking question papers or answer keys.
  • Unauthorised access or possession of question papers or Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) sheets.
  • Altering answer sheets, including OMR sheets. etc.

Public Examinations Defined Under the Bill

Section 2(k) of the Bill: Public examinations refer to exams conducted by entities listed in the Bill’s Schedule or any authority designated by the Central Government. These include exams conducted by:

  • Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs), Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), National Testing Agency (NTA).

Punishments for Violations

The proposed law sets forth strict penalties for violations related to unfair means in examinations, as outlined in the Bill:

  • Section 9: Violations are considered cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
  • Individuals- Section 10(1): For individuals, the punishment ranges from 3 to 5 years, with a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Service Providers- Sections 10(2): A service provider involved in providing support for the exam through any computer resource or material can be fined up to Rs 1 crore, among other penalties.
  • Organised Crime- Section 11(1): For cases involving organised paper leaks, the punishment is more severe, with imprisonment ranging from 5 to 10 years and a minimum fine of Rs 1 crore.

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