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THE PUBLIC EXAMINATIONS BILL,2024

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently, the Central government introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha titled “The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024”.

AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE BILL:

  • The Bill aims to prevent the use of unfair means in job related recruitment exams .
  • It aims to prevent “unfair means” in order to bring greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the public examinations system.
  • Transparent and fair examinations will reassure the youth that their sincere and genuine efforts will be fairly rewarded and their future is safe.
  • The Bill is aimed at effectively and legally deterring persons, organised groups or institutions that indulge in various unfair means.

PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLIC EXAMINATIONS BILL,2024:

UNFAIR MEANS: According to Section 3 of the Bill, “Around 15 actions that amount to using unfair means in public examinations for monetary or wrongful gain”.

  • Some of the actions include:
  1. Leakage of question paper or answer key or part
  2. Accessing or taking possession of question paper
  3. Tampering with answer sheets including Optical Mark Recognition response sheets
  4. Providing solution to one or more questions by any unauthorised person during a public examination
  5. Directly or indirectly assisting the candidate” in a public examination.

PUBLIC EXAMINATIONS: Under Section 2(k), a “public examination” is defined as any examination conducted by a “public examination authority” listed in the Schedule of the Bill.

  • Public examinations conducted by any such other authority as may be notified by the Central Government.
  • The schedule lists five public examination authorities:
  1. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
  2. The Staff Selection Commission (SSC)
  3. The Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs)
  4. The Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS)
  5. The National Testing Agency (NTA)

PUNISHMENT PROVISIONS: Section 9 of the Bill clearly states that all the offences shall be cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence.

  • A non-compoundable offence is an offence in which the complainant cannot withdraw the case even when the complainant and the accused have reached a compromise, and a trial must necessarily follow.
  • Punishment for any person or persons resorting to unfair means and offences can be 3 to 5 years in prison, and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Under Section 10(2) of the bill, a service provider who is engaged to provide support of any computer resource or any material, by whatever name it may be called for the conduct of the examination can be fined up to Rs 1 crore, along with other penalties.
  • The Bill also provides for harsher punishments in cases of organised paper leaks, where organised crime is defined as an unlawful activity by a group of persons colluding in a conspiracy to pursue or promote a shared interest for wrongful gain in respect of a public examination.

TECHNICAL COMMITTEE: The government also decided to set up a High level National Technical Committee on Public Examinations to look into developing protocol for insulating digital platforms, devising ways and means for developing foolproof IT security system, ensuring comprehensive electronic surveillance of the examinations centres and  formulating national standards and service levels for both, IT and physical infrastructure, to be deployed for conduct of such examinations.

WHY THE BILL IS PROPOSED?

  • As in recent years, there have been a very large number of cases of question paper leaks in recruitment exams across the country.
  • As per one findings found at least 48 instances of paper leaks in 16 states over the last five years.
  • The leaks touched the lives of at least 1.51 crore applicants for about 1.2 lakh posts.
  • Malpractices in public examinations leads to delays and cancellation of examinations, adversely impacting the prospects of millions of youth.
  • At present, there is no specific substantive law to deal with unfair means adopted or offences committed in public examinations.

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