New Delhi, January 31: In a major step aimed at checking entrance exam-related malpractices, the Centre is slated to bring a bill in the budget session of Parliament to effectively deter persons, organised groups or institutions that indulge in unfair means and adversely impact the public examination systems for wrongful gains, sources said.

The sources said the Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) bill will have stringent provisions against malpractices. Students in several states have suffered in the past due to examinations getting cancelled for malpractices including paper leaks. The sources said the bill, aimed at competitive and entrance exams, will entail setting up a high-level technical committee to tackle challenges of cyber security in public examinations. Budget Session 2024: President Droupadi Murmu Lists Ram Temple, Economic Reforms as Key Achievements of Modi Government (Watch Video)

At present, there is no specific substantive law at the national level to deal with unfair means adopted or offences committed by persons, organized groups, or any other agency or organization that adversely impacts the conduct of public examinations by the Central Government and its agencies. Sources said the bill could steeply hike the punishment for malpractices which could go up to imprisonment of 10 years and penalty of Rs one crore. They said offences were likely to be non-bailable.

The sources said that the bill is likely to be brought in Parliament next week and would be taken up for passage and does not target students. The budget session of Parliament commenced on Wednesday with the address of the President to the joint sitting of the two Houses and will continue till February 9. They said the objective of the bill is to bring in greater transparency, fairness and credibility to the public examination systems and to reassure the youths that their sincere and genuine efforts will be fairly rewarded and their futures are safe.

The sources said it will cover exams conducted by the UPSC, Staff Selection Commission and entrance tests such as NEET and JEE. Bonafide candidates and students as defined in the Bill shall not be liable for action within the purview of the Bill. The sources said the government has introduced several reforms to enhance transparency in examinations for recruitment as well as admission to higher education institutions. Union Budget 2024: PM Narendra Modi Urges All To Make Best Use of Upcoming Parliament Session, Says 'Budget Session An Opportunity of Disruptive MPs For Repentance and Leave Positive Footprints' (Watch Video)

These include introducing self-attestation, shortening the examination cycle (from 18-22 month to 6-10 months), doing away with interviews for recruitment to Group 'C' and 'D' posts, introduction of computer-based tests and issuance of appointment letters through digital means under 'Rojgar Mela'. In the recent past, many states have had to cancel or were unable to declare results of their public examinations due to adverse impact of unfair practices and means adopted by anti-social and criminal elements.

Sources said these unfair practices, if not effectively prevented and deterred, will continue to jeopardize the future and careers of millions of aspiring youths of the country. The sources said that it has been observed that in many instances, organized groups and mafia elements are involved and they deploy solver gangs, impersonation methods and indulge in paper leaks, the sources said, adding that the Bill primarily aims to deter such kind of nefarious elements.

Noting that it is vital that elements both within and outside the examination systems who exploit these vulnerabilities are identified and effectively dealt with by way of comprehensive Central legislation, the sources said there is a need to prevent such criminal elements from playing with lives and hopes of genuine and sincere youths who appear in these examinations.

They said that in view of increasing role of technology in the conduct of public examinations, it has also been decided to Set up a High-level National Technical Committee on Public Examinations which shall look into developing protocols for insulating digital platforms, devising ways and means for developing foolproof IT security system, ensuring comprehensive electronic surveillance of the examinations centres and formulating national standards and service levels for both, IT and physical infrastructure, to be deployed for the conduct of such examinations.

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