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Center brings anti-paper leak law amid NEET, NET exam controversy; up to 1 cr fine, 10 years in jail

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act is the first national legislation aimed at preventing cheating and other dishonest practices in recruitment exams held by organizations such as the UPSC, Staff Selection Commission, Railway Recruitment Board, and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).

EPN Desk 22 June 2024 05:33

Members of the All India Students Association (AISA) protest over the alleged irregularities in medical entrance exam NEET, at Shastri Bhawan, in New Delhi.

Members of the All India Students Association (AISA) protest over the alleged irregularities in medical entrance exam NEET, at Shastri Bhawan, in New Delhi.

The government has introduced a strict new law to prevent paper leaks and malpractices in response to growing concerns about the integrity of competitive examinations.

This legislation, effective from June 21, imposes severe penalties, including up to 10 years of imprisonment and fines reaching ₹ 1 crore for those found guilty.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, received presidential assent in February and was passed by both houses of Parliament earlier this year.

The law is aimed at maintaining the sanctity of exams conducted by bodies like the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), railways, banking sectors, and the National Testing Agency (NTA).

The act specifies a minimum jail term of three to five years for general cheating offenses, with harsher penalties for organized cheating crimes, including five to ten years of imprisonment and a mandatory fine of at least ₹ 1 crore.

Before this law, no specific legislation addressed the issue of unfair practices in public exams conducted by central government agencies.

This legislative move gains prominence amid controversies surrounding the cancellation of the 2024 University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET).

The cancellation occurred after preliminary evidence suggested potential compromises in the exam's integrity, affecting over 9 lakh candidates who had appeared for the test across 317 cities.

This incident marked the first major examination to be annulled following the introduction of the new anti-paper leak law.

The announcement came on the heels of the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's statement that the law ministry was finalizing the rules for implementing this legislation.

Additionally, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a First Information Report (FIR) against unknown suspects, addressing allegations of cheating and conspiracy related to the exam leak.

The controversy also extends to other exams, including the NEET undergraduate exam, whose results were released on June 4, and the CSIR-UGC NET exam, which qualifies candidates for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) and lectureships in science subjects.

Due to suspicions of potential leaks, the education ministry has advised postponing the CSIR-UGC NET, originally scheduled for June 25-27, to ensure the examination's fairness.

The situation has further implications for the Central University Entrance Test (CUET-UG) results and the overall undergraduate admissions process across central universities.

With the provisional answer key for CUET-UG yet to be released and the results deadline of June 30 approaching, delays are anticipated.

A senior NTA official indicated that it might take an additional week to ten days after releasing the provisional answer key to finalize the results.

Political Reactions

Opposition parties have criticized the government's handling of these examination issues, with the Congress party describing the cancellation and subsequent actions as a “defeat of the arrogance of the Modi government.”

The Center's introduction of the anti-paper leak law represents a significant step in addressing the longstanding issues of examination malpractices, aiming to restore trust and integrity in India's competitive exam system.


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