On Monday, the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, was introduced in the Lok Sabha with the aim of curbing "unfair means" in public examinations. The proposed legislation seeks to instill greater transparency, fairness, and credibility into the examination system. In this article, we delve into the key provisions of the bill and its significance in addressing the challenges posed by malpractices in public examinations.
Understanding "Unfair Means": Section 3 of the bill outlines various actions constituting the use of "unfair means" in public examinations. These actions range from the leakage of question papers to tampering with answer sheets, creating fake websites, and conducting fake examinations. The bill primarily targets activities conducted for monetary or wrongful gain, aiming to maintain the integrity of the examination process.
Defining "Public Examinations": The bill defines a "public examination" under Section 2(k) as any examination conducted by designated public examination authorities listed in the schedule. These authorities include 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). Additionally, all Ministries or Departments of the Central Government involved in staff recruitment fall under the purview of the bill.
Punishments for Violations: Section 9 of the bill stipulates that offenses under the proposed law are cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable. Violators may face imprisonment ranging from three to five years and fines up to Rs 10 lakh. In cases of organized paper leaks, the punishment can be imprisonment for a term not less than five years, extending up to ten years, and a fine not less than one crore rupees. Service providers supporting the conduct of examinations may be fined up to Rs 1 crore, along with other penalties.
Rationale Behind the Bill: The need for the bill arises from the alarming increase in cases of question paper leaks in recruitment exams across the country over the past five years. Instances of paper leaks have disrupted the hiring process for government jobs, affecting the lives of millions of applicants. The bill aims to address these malpractices, providing a legal framework to deter individuals, groups, or institutions involved in unfair means during public examinations.
Conclusion: The introduction of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, is a significant step toward ensuring the integrity of public examinations in India. By imposing stringent punishments and addressing various forms of malpractices, the bill aims to create a more transparent, fair, and credible examination system. As the legislation progresses, it is expected to serve as a model for states to adopt, strengthening the overall framework for preventing criminal elements from disrupting state-level public examinations.