Amid paper leak controversy, Modi govt notifies stringent law

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New Delhi: The Centre on Friday operationalised a stringent law that aims to curb malpractices and irregularities in competitive examinations and entails provisions for a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 crore for offenders.

Nearly four months after President Dropadi Murmu gave assent to The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, the Personnel Ministry on Friday night issued a notification, saying the provisions of the law will come into force from June 21.

The move assumes significance amid a raging row over UGC-NET, 2024, exam's question paper leak. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday registered a case to probe the question paper leak of the exam conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Opposition parties have also alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG, the results of which were announced by NTA on June 4.

"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," reads the notification.

The notification of the Act comes just a day after Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was asked when the legislation would be implemented. The minister had said the law ministry was framing the rules.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on February 9. The Lok Sabha passed it on February 6. President Murmu gave approval to the bill on February 12, turning it into a law.

The Act aims to prevent unfair means in the public examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the railways, banking recruitment examinations and the National Testing Agency (NTA) among others.

It has provisions for a minimum of three to five years of imprisonment to curb cheating and those involved in organised crimes of cheating will face five to 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs 1 crore.

Before this legislation, there was no specific substantive law to deal with unfair means adopted or offences committed by various entities involved in the conduct of public examinations by the central government and its agencies.

The Act is aimed at preventing organised gangs and institutions that are involved in unfair means for monetary gains and protects candidates from its provisions, Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh had said.

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