Ahmedabad, Jan 29 (PTI) The competitive examination for the recruitment of Gujarat government's junior clerks scheduled on Sunday was postponed soon after it came to light that its question paper had been leaked, following which 16 persons were arrested, officials said.
The Gujarat Panchayat Service Selection Board (GPSSB) announced postponement of the examination early Sunday morning, hours before it was scheduled to start across 2,995 centres at 11 am.
As many as 9.5 lakh candidates had applied for 1,181 posts.
The Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) said it arrested 16 persons in this connection and recovered the copy of the question paper from their possession.
GPSSB's in-charge chairman Sandeep Kumar later announced that the examination will be conducted within 100 days and a new date will be announced in the next few days.
Addressing a press conference, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Gujarat ATS Sunil Joshi said 16 persons have been arrested so far in this case, including 15 from Vadodara and one from Hyderabad. Seven out of the 16 accused are part of a gang from Bihar.
"The state ATS nabbed 15 accused from a computer exam centre named Stackwise Technology in Vadodara around 1.30 am on Sunday when they had gathered there with the copy of the question paper. The question paper recovered from them matched with that of the original paper, prompting the government to immediately decide on postponing the exam," he said.
Working on a tip-off that a man from Odisha, identified as Pradip Nayak, was going to deliver the question paper to Ketan Barot and Bhaskar Chaudhary in Vadodara city, the ATS formed a special team involving personnel from the Surat crime branch and Vadodara Special Operations Group (SOG) and arrested 15 persons from the exam centre along with the copy of the photo and copy of the question paper, Joshi said.
"When we contacted the GPSSB, it confirmed that the copies matched with that of the original question paper. It was immediately decided to postpone the examination," he said.
Further investigation revealed that Nayak was given the copy of the paper by one Jeet Nayat, who worked at K L Hitech Press in Hyderabad where the paper was printed. A team rushed to Hyderabad and arrested Nayak who was being brought to Gujarat, he said.
Barot and Chaudhary were arrested in the past in cases investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), he said. Chaudhary is a native of Bihar and lives in Vadodara, and Mohanty hails from Odisha and resides in Surat, Joshi said.
"The accused from Odisha contacted Chaudhary and Barot through the gang from Bihar. Chaudhary and Barot then contacted the accused in Gujarat, and they all decided to gather at Chaudhary's exam centre in Vadodara," Joshi said.
He said that most of the accused are involved in education consultancy business.
"The accused persons were booked under sections 406 and 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (chreating) and 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the case will be investigated by the ATS," he said.
Further probe will reveal the extent of exchange of money and the involvement of students in this connection. An ATS team was sent to Odisha to arrest a wanted accused from the state, he said.
Revealing the modus operandi, Joshi said that Nayak came in touch with a gang from Bihar led by one Murari Paswan, one of the accused.
"Paswan and his gang member Mintu Kumar contacted the accused persons from Vadodara. Through the Paswan gang, the supplier group came in contact with the recipients," he said.
"Most of them are involved in education consultancy, and one is a co-owner of a nursing college. We have arrested 16 accused, and the gang is completely buste," he said.
Early in the day, GPSSB's Sandeep Kumar told reporters that the examination will be held within 100 days.
The board expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to the candidates and announced the examination will be conducted afresh at the earliest, for which the board will issue a new advertisement.
Meanwhile, candidates reached the examination centres from far-off places on Sunday and expressed anger over the development.
Members of the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), the Congress's student wing, blocked roads and shouted slogans against the government even as a number of them were detained in different parts of the state, according to police. Members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also joined the protest.
Some of the angry candidates demanded strong action against those responsible for the paper leak.
Police teams were deployed at the exam centres and bus stands as agitated candidates expressed their anguish and anger over the development.
"We feel helpless and uncertain about their future due to paper leak incidents happening regularly. The government should take care that such an incident does not recur. We travelled from far-off places and took trouble to reach here only to find the exam was cancelled," said a candidate.
The opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) demanded strict action against the culprits.
Gujarat AAP president Isudan Gadhvi demanded that the government form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the paper leak cases in the state.
"Apart from the SIT, we demand that the government come up with a strict law against paper leak in the upcoming budget session of the Assembly (to begin from February 23). The government should also provide a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to the candidates and make sure the candidates are not made to deposit the fees all over again," Gadhvi told reporters. Gujarat Congress also targeted the government over the episode. "The recruitment agencies under the BJP rule have become the epicentre of corruption," Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said.
"The BJP government, which plays with the future of the youth, is not eligible to stay in power for even a single day...There have been around 31 such cases since 2014. It is hard to understand why the BJP is unable to stop such a case," he said. PTI KA GK NP NP