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Upholding Integrity: The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024

The government has introduced a new bill in the Lok Sabha aimed at cracking down on malpractices during public examinations. This bill, titled the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, seeks to impose severe penalties on individuals involved in cheating or other dishonest activities during exams.

The scope of the bill is extensive, covering a wide array of central recruitment and entrance exams conducted by prestigious organizations like the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs), Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), and the National Testing Agency (NTA). These exams serve as gateways to various government jobs and admission to higher education institutions.

Moreover, the bill also extends its coverage to include all central ministries, departments, and their recruitment offices. This broad inclusion emphasizes the government's commitment to ensuring the integrity and fairness of examinations across the board.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, represents a significant effort by the government to uphold the sanctity of public examinations and maintain the credibility of the recruitment and admission processes in the country.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, lays down stringent provisions to combat unfair practices in public examinations, ensuring that those involved face severe consequences for their actions. Here's a breakdown of the various aspects of this bill:

Under section 3 of this bill defines various forms of unfair means related to public examinations, including:
  1. Leakage of question papers or answer keys.
  2. Colluding with others to facilitate leakage.
  3. Unauthorized access to question papers or response sheets.
  4. Providing solutions by unauthorized persons.
  5. Unauthorized assistance to candidates.
  6. Tampering with answer sheets.
  7. Altering assessments without authority.
  8. Violating norms or standards set by the Central Government.
  9. Tampering with documents for candidate selection.
  10. Deliberate breach of security measures.
  11. Tampering with computer systems or networks.
  12. Manipulating seating arrangements and exam schedules.
  13. Threatening or obstructing examination authorities or personnel.
  14. Creating fake websites for cheating.
  15. Conducting fake examinations or issuing fraudulent documents.
These acts are punishable under the bill and aim to maintain the integrity and fairness of public examinations.
  • Section 9 of the bill declares all offences under it as cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable, indicating the seriousness with which such offences are treated under the law.
  • Section 10 of this bill outlines penalties for various parties involved in unfair practices during public examinations:
    • Individuals found guilty face imprisonment of 3 to 5 years and fines up to Rs 10 lakh. If they fail to pay the fine, they may face additional imprisonment.
    • Service providers can be fined up to Rs 1 crore, with examination costs also recovered from them. They are barred from conducting public exams for four years.
    • Directors, senior management, or those in charge of service provider firms face imprisonment of 3 to 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 crore if involved in the offence. Defaulting on the fine results in additional imprisonment.
    • If a person can prove they were unaware of the offence and took necessary precautions to prevent it, they won't be punished under the Act.
    • Until the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 is enacted, the Indian Penal Code applies.
  • Section 11 of this bill imposes severe penalties for organized crimes related to public examinations:
    • Individuals or groups involved in organized crimes, including examination authorities, service providers, or any institution, face imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and fines starting from one crore rupees. Defaulting on the fine incurs additional imprisonment.
    • If an institution is implicated in organized crime, its property can be seized and forfeited. Additionally, the institution must cover the proportional examination costs.
Objective of the Bill: The primary aim of the bill, as stated within its provisions, is to enhance transparency, fairness, and credibility in public examination systems. It seeks to reassure young individuals that their sincere efforts will be duly recognized and rewarded, ensuring the integrity of their future endeavors.

Applicability to Central and State Authorities: While the provisions of the bill are binding for central public examination authorities, it also serves as a model for states to adopt. Some states like Gujarat and Assam have already enacted their own legislation in this regard, underlining the importance of ensuring fair practices in examinations across the country.

In conclusion the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, is a comprehensive legislative initiative aimed at combatting malpractices in public examinations. By outlining stringent penalties for various parties involved in unfair practices, the bill underscores the government's commitment to upholding the integrity, transparency, and credibility of the examination process.

With its broad scope covering central recruitment and entrance exams, as well as the inclusion of all central ministries and departments, the bill sets a standard for ensuring fairness in examinations nationwide. Ultimately, its objective is to reassure candidates that genuine efforts will be duly rewarded, thus fostering trust and confidence in the public examination system.

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