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Centre Enacts Stringent Law to Curb Exam Irregularities Amid Paper Leak Controversy

New Delhi, Jun 22: In a significant move to curb malpractices and irregularities in competitive examinations, the Centre has operationalised a stringent law that mandates severe penalties for offenders, including a maximum jail term of 10 years and fines up to Rs 1 crore. The law comes into force amid a controversy over the UGC-NET 2024 exam’s question paper leak.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, received assent from President Droupadi Murmu nearly four months ago. On Friday night, the Personnel Ministry issued a notification stating that the provisions of the law would be effective from June 21. This enactment is particularly significant in light of the ongoing row over the UGC-NET exam leak, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently registering a case to investigate the matter.

Additionally, opposition parties have raised concerns about alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG medical entrance exam, the results of which were announced by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on June 4. The new law is expected to address such issues by imposing strict penalties on those found guilty of malpractices.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 (1 of 2024), the Central Government hereby appoints the 21st day of June, 2024, as the date on which the provisions of the said Act shall come into force,” the notification reads. This move follows a recent inquiry to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan about the implementation timeline, to which he responded that the law ministry was finalizing the rules.

The legislation, passed by the Rajya Sabha on February 9 and the Lok Sabha on February 6, received presidential assent on February 12, thus becoming law. It aims to prevent unfair means in public examinations conducted by bodies such as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), railways, banking recruitment examinations, and the NTA.

The Act stipulates a minimum imprisonment of three to five years for cheating, with more severe penalties for those involved in organized cheating operations, who will face five to 10 years in prison and fines of at least Rs 1 crore. These stringent measures are expected to deter malpractice and uphold the integrity of public examinations.

Before this legislation, there was no specific substantive law addressing the unfair means adopted or offences committed by various entities involved in conducting public examinations. The Act targets organized gangs and institutions engaging in unfair practices for monetary gains while protecting genuine candidates.

Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh emphasized that the Act is designed to prevent such organized crimes and protect the sanctity of public examinations, ensuring fair opportunities for all candidates.

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