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PUBLIC EXAMINATIONS BILL,2024

2024 FEB 9

Mains   > Social justice   >   Government Policies   >   Miscellaneous

SYLLABUS

GS 2- Government policies and interventions for the development of various sectors (Bills and Acts)

REFERENCE NEWS

Recently, Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill 2024, was introduced in Lok Sabha. The Bill aims to prevent unfair means in the public examinations. The bill comes in the backdrop of cancellation of several recruitment exams due to paper leaks, such as teacher recruitment exam in Rajasthan and constable recruitment examination in Bihar.

ABOUT THE PUBLIC EXAMINATIONS BILL

  • Definition of unfair means: Section 3 of the bill lists at least 15 actions that amount to using unfair means in public examinations “for monetary or wrongful gain”. These include leakage of question papers, providing solutions, tampering with OMR sheets, creation of fake websites, and conduct of fake examinations.
  • Definition of Public Examinations: The Bill defines a “Public examination” as any examinations conducted by a “public examination authority” listed in the schedule of the bill. These include UPSC, SSC, RRBs, IBPS, NTA, Ministries, or departments of the central government.
  • Punishments: Offences under the new bill have been made Cognizable, Non-Bailable and Non-Compoundable. Punishment for any person or group of persons resorting to unfair means is 3-5 years in prison and a fine up to Rs. 10lakh. Punishment in case of an organized paper leak is 5-10 years in prison and fines greater than 1 crore.

ADVANTAGES OF PUBLIC EXAMINATIONS BILL

  • Security for computer-based tests - The legislation advises the establishment of a National Technical Committee on Public Examinations. This committee is tasked with proposing measures to fortify the security of computerized examination processes.
  • Model for state-level examination systems - This Bill will act as a guiding framework for states, enabling them to bolster the integrity of their public examination systems.
  • Increasing transparency, fairness, and trust - By ensuring that the hard work and honest efforts of candidates are appropriately recognized, the Bill aims to restore faith among the youth in the public examination process.
  • Curbing the activities of organized paper leak mafias - With the introduction of stringent penalties and fines, the Bill aims to deter criminal networks that exploit the weaknesses in the examination system for their gain.
  • Addressing the issue of question paper leaks - The legislation is a response to the widespread problem of question paper leaks that have marred the recruitment process, affecting over 1.51 crore candidates in 16 states, involving 48 leaks over the past five years for approximately 1.2 lakh vacancies.

CONCERNS WITH THE BILL

  • Potential for bias in the National-Technical Committee's composition - The bill fails to specify the qualifications and composition of the National-Technical Committee on Public Exams. This omission raises concerns about possible bias in member selection by the central government.
  • Vulnerability to exploitation of exemptions for students - By excluding students from criminal sanctions and placing them under administrative regulations of the relevant public examination authority, the bill inadvertently opens a loophole. This could be exploited by members of paper leak gangs who might masquerade as students to avoid severe criminal penalties.
  • The risk of partisan influence in state-level implementations - Given the bill's role as a model for state governments to draft their legislation, there's a risk of partisan interests affecting the creation of these acts, similar to issues observed with the Model APLM Act in the past.
  • Broad leeway for subordinate legislation - The bill allows for the creation of various rules under its framework, granting executive authorities considerable discretion in its application. This extensive power could potentially lead to arbitrary or uneven implementation across different jurisdictions.

WAY FORWARD

  • Establish National Standards and Clarify Exemptions: Develop minimum national standards for state legislation to mitigate partisan influences and clearly define student exemptions to prevent exploitation by paper leak gangs, ensuring both uniformity and fairness across states.
  • Transparent Committee Composition and Limited Discretionary Powers: Implement a transparent selection process for the National-Technical Committee with clear membership criteria to avoid bias, coupled with stringent guidelines to limit the discretionary powers in subordinate legislation, ensuring a balanced and accountable implementation process.
  • Robust Monitoring and Stakeholder Engagement: Introduce a comprehensive monitoring framework to evaluate the bill's effectiveness, alongside active engagement with stakeholders, including educational institutions and civil society, to foster a culture of integrity and gather diverse insights for practical implementation.
  • Capacity Building and Public Awareness: Invest in training for exam administrators and law enforcement to effectively enforce the bill, and launch awareness campaigns to educate stakeholders about the importance of examination fairness and the consequences of unfair practices.
  • Regular Review and Feedback Mechanism: Set up a mechanism for regular review of the legislation's impact, incorporating feedback from various stakeholders to make iterative improvements, ensuring the legislation remains adaptive and responsive to emerging challenges in examination security.

The Public Examinations Bill represents a significant initiative by the Central Government to safeguard the interests of students who dedicate immense effort and time to preparing for public examinations. State governments must embrace this model Bill to uphold the integrity and reliability of their public examination systems.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q: Analyse the importance of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill 2024 for maintaining fairness and integrity in examination systems. Highlight implementation challenges and propose enforcement strategies.(10M,150W)