LS passes bill to curb paper leaks, 1 0-yr jail proposed

NEW DELHI:

Lok Sabha

on Tuesday passed a bill that lays down strong punitive measures to curb paper leaks and other malpractices in competitive examinations, with the central govt clarifying that students and examinees will not be under the purview of the proposed law.
Replying to the debate on The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, Union minister Jitendra Singh said govt will not allow “meritorious candidates to be sacrificed at the altar of organised crimes”. He said students and job applicants won’t be hurt by its provisions.
The bill was passed after rejecting the amendments proposed by RSP MP N K Premachandran. He demanded that in the definition of organised crime, “any malpractice for wrongful gain” should include “favouritism and nepotism”. He sought deletion of the provision that states any official who proves he is not guilty would be exempted from punishment. He called the penal provisions as violative of criminal jurisprudence and demanded the bill be sent to the standing committee.
The bill lays down a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 crore for malpractices defined in its provisions. As members lamented that candidates are left stranded after exams are stalled for long durations after cancellations over paper leaks, Singh said it was not possible to set a timeline for re-examinations, but added the effort will be to hold them at the earliest.

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Opposition members accused Union minister Jitendra Singh of politicising The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, by mentioning only West Bengal and Rajasthan to cite instances of paper leaks, even though the menace was prevalent in BJP-led states too.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kathir Anand and Congress MP MK

Vishnu Prasad

said the country was jolted by Vyapam scam of BJP-governed Madhya Pradesh which brought the issue of paper leaks to light.

MPs

Supriya Sule

and Imtiaz Jaleel cited instances of paper leaks in Maharashtra. Some members also raised concerns about implementation of the proposed law, and criminalisation of all those involved in the conduct of exams.
While many members, including Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, criticised that govt was centralising the entire system, minister Singh denied the charge, saying Modi govt believes in cooperative federalism.
DMK’s Kathir Anand and

Senthil Kumar

said a key reason behind malpractices is not holding examinations like NEET in local languages. Singh said UPSC conducts exams in 14 languages and “we hope to gradually include all 22 languages”.
He further mentioned that SSC exams are held in all the languages including

Tamil

, which did not happen in the UPA regime of which the DMK was a part.
Citing reports, Chowdhury said the country has witnessed large number of cases of data leaks and asked how the govt intended to curb the loopholes.
Congress MP Vishnu Prasad said the bill talks about hacking of computers, and argued that it implies that EVMs can also be hacked. He demanded that govt look into it and also bring a bill.

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