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Anti-Paper Leak Law Comes Into Force

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, which attempts to stop unfair means in public examinations and common entrance tests performed across the nation, was notified by the central government on Friday. The action was taken in the midst of a heated dispute around purported malpractices in the administration of the NEET and UGC NET exams.

The law, which was passed by the Parliament in February of this year, suggests that cheating be punished with a minimum of three to five years in prison. Those who engage in organized cheating activities could face a minimum fine of Rs. 1 crore along with five to ten years in prison.

If a person or a group of persons commits an organized crime, including the examination authority, service provider, or any other institution, they will be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than five years but which may extend to ten years, and a fine not less than Rs 1 crore, the law states.

The law also has provisions to attach and forfeit the property of an institution if they are found involved in an organised paper leak crime, and the proportionate cost of the examination shall also be recovered from it.

However, the act protects the candidates appearing in the examination from the punitive provisions, and they will be governed under the provisions of the existing unfair means policy of the examination conducting authority.

The law defines ‘unfair means’ as leaking question papers or answer keys, assisting candidates during exams through unauthorized communication or providing solutions, tampering with computer networks or resources, impersonating candidates, conducting fake examinations or issuing fake documents, and tampering with documents for merit lists or ranks.

The offences that come under the law are non-bailable. Any officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or Assistant Commissioner of Police can investigate any offence under the Act. Additionally, the central government has the power to refer any investigation to a central agency.

The Act covers examinations held by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the Staff Selection Commission, the Railways, banking recruitment examinations, and all computer-based examinations conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Informing about the implementation of the bill on X, Union Minister Giriraj Singh said, “The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024—the anti-paper leak law for examinations for central recruitment and entrance into central educational institutions—came into effect on Friday, June 21.”

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