Lok Sabha passes Bill to stop malpractices in competitive exam
The new Bill hopes to tackle exam malpractices with a 10-year jail term and Rs 1 crore fine
A bill which seeks to deal sternly with malpractices and irregularities in competitive examinations, with provisions for a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine up to Rs 1 crore, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, 6 February.
Piloting the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, Union minister Jitendra Singh said its provisions are meant to safeguard the interest of meritorious students and candidates.
The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha after rejecting amendments proposed by Opposition members.
Singh said the government "will not allow meritorious (candidates) to be sacrificed at the alter of organised crimes".
He added that the students and candidates do not fall in the purview of this bill and there will be no harm to job aspirants.
The move comes after the cancellation of a series of competitive tests such as the teacher recruitment exam in Rajasthan, Common Eligibility Test (CET) for Group-D posts in Haryana, recruitment exam for junior clerks in Gujarat and constable recruitment examination in Bihar following question paper leaks.
The bill also proposes a high-level national technical committee on public examinations that will make recommendations to make the computerised examination process more secure.
The committee shall look into developing protocols for insulating digital platforms, devising ways and means for developing foolproof IT security systems, ensuring electronic surveillance of examination centres and formulating national standards and services for both IT and physical infrastructure to be deployed for conduct of such examinations.
In many instances, it has been observed that organised groups and mafia elements involved in malpractices deploy solver gangs, use impersonation methods and indulge in paper leaks.
The Bill primarily aims to deter such nefarious elements.
The objective of the Bill 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 future is safe.
Addressing a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament at the beginning of the budget session on 31 January, President Droupadi Murmu had said the government is aware of the concerns of the youth regarding irregularities in examinations.
"Therefore, it has been decided to enact a new law to deal sternly with such malpractices," she had said.
Responding to the criticism by some Opposition members that the government is centralising everything, Singh said the Modi government believes in cooperative federalism and the bill does not attempt to centralise all the systems.
He said that whenever any exam is cancelled, the effort would be made to hold the re-examination as early as possible.
However, he added that there can not be any firm timeline for re-examination of cancelled exam as often such cases are examined by investigative agencies and they take their own time.
The minister also said that the UPSC is conducting exams in 14 languages and "we hope to gradually include all 22 languages".
Participating in the debate on the bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the bill talks about penal provisions and is lacking on prevent measures.
He also alleged that the entire emphasis of the government is on centralising all authority.
Citing reports, Chowdhury said that the country has witnessed a large number of cases of data leaks and asked how the government intends to plug these loopholes.
N.K. Premachandran of the RSP alleged that the provisions of the bill are against the principles of criminal jurisprudence and hence should be referred to the Standing Committee for scrutiny.
Trinamool Congress leader Kalyan Banerjee said that there is no dearth of laws but the real problem is their implementation.
Most of the Opposition members by and large supported the bill.