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An In-Depth Analysis Of Public Examination (Prevention Of Unfair Means) Act.2024

Public examinations are critical for determining the academic and professional trajectories of millions of students. Ensuring their integrity is paramount to maintain trust in the education system. The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, represents a comprehensive legal framework aimed at addressing examination malpractices. This research paper explores the Act's provisions, historical context, case studies of examination leaks, and the impact of the Act post-implementation. By delving into these aspects, the paper seeks to provide a holistic understanding of the necessity, effectiveness, and future implications of the Act.

On 21st June Union government announced the enforcement of the Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means ) Act, 2024 by releasing a statement: "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." This act was passed by Parliament on 9th of February and got presidential assent on the 12th of February 2024.

Many questions are roaming around regarding the inexplicable delay in the enforcement of the said act. It was enacted amid the widespread tension among candidates regarding frequent leaks of public examinations. The recent NEET-UG 2024 exam paper leak creates chaos among candidates who have been preparing hard for the exam for the last 2-3 years. The recent UGC-NET exam was also cancelled by NTA saying that the integrity of the exam was compromised.

Enforcement of the act after leaks of two of the biggest exams of the country gave rise to questions regarding the reason behind the delay. Act was passed to prevent unfair means but what matters if the act has been passed after unfair means have already been practiced. An Act that is passed by Parliament can be on such that the government will retain it and decide on another date to bring it to the notice of Parliament. If an Act does not contain such a provision, the Act obtains legal force as soon as it receives the President's signature.

It is also important to note at some times, the Act will also provide for the coming into operation of the Act to be on a date specified by the Act. Parliament authorises this power to the government so that the government can put appropriate measures structures and institutions in place to implement the Act. Therefore, Section 1 (2) of The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 also confirms that it will be effective from such date as the central government may specify by notification in the official gazette. The government also did this by fixing 21 June as a date when various provisions of the Act shall take effect.

According to section 16(1) of the Act, the Centre has to make rules which have to be notified in the official gazette for the implementation of the provisions of the Act. Section 16(2) provides that such rules may contain provisions of how and in what manner public examinations may be conducted, as well as any other matter touching on the examinations that may be prescribed. Section 17 provides that each rule made under the Act is to be laid before each house of parliament while it is sitting for a total of 30 sitting days to be approved.

The delay in notifying the Act would have been justified if the government had framed Rules in the period intervening between the passing of the Act and notification. Since the general election to Parliament hindered the formation of mechanisms and setting of Rules, there was no need to notify the Act on June 21. It could have waited for the laying of Rules in the next parliamentary session if it had anticipated the move of the other House. Without such Rules in the Act, several provisions of the Act would be of little application in the country.

Key provisions
Purpose of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act 2024 was passed to enhance public examination credibility. It restricts the leakage of information, which is related to a particular examination, prior to the stipulated time and the access of any unauthorized persons into the examination halls. The Act aims at combating cheating in public examinations.

Public examination is defined under section 2(k) of the act, a Public Examination is defined as any examination conducted by a "public examination authority" listed in the Schedule of the Bill, or any such other authority as may be notified by the Central Government. The schedule lists five public examination authorities, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs), the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Section 3 of the Act defines at least 15 actions as "unfair means" which include: These are (i) theft of examination materials or their leakage to the candidates, (ii) cheating or assisting the candidates in any way, (iii) corrupting computer setup or resources, (iv) foul play in the process of shortlisting or ranking of the candidates, and lastly, (v) conducting fraudulent exams and issuing fake admit cards or offer letters for financial gain, (vi) tampering with answer sheets or examination records

The Act has not given a precise meaning to 'service provider' but this term refers to an agency, an organisation, a body, association, business entity, company, partnership or any other organisation, including its affiliates and sub contractors who are hired by the public examination authority to conduct public examinations. If an examination authority or service provider commits an organized crime, then the jail term of minimum imprisonment will be of five years whereas the imprisonment may extend up to ten years, and the fine will remain ₹ 1 crore as per Section 30 J. The Act has also referred to the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita where a note has been placed that the provisions of the Indian Penal Code shall continue to apply until the application of new laws.


Section 9 of the act defines the nature of the offense as cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
  • This means police can start their investigation without seeking permission from the magistrate
  • Arrest can be made without any warrant and bail would be granted on the discretion of the magistrate not as a right
  • Non-compoundable means the case cannot be withdrawn from any party even if parties are ready to compromise.

Punishment for “any person or persons resorting to unfair means and offenses” can be three to five years in prison, and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.

If the convict fails to pay the fine, “an additional punishment of imprisonment shall be imposed, as per the provisions of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, 2023.

Punishment for the Service Providers:

  • A service provider, engaged by the public examination authority for the conduct of examinations, shall also be liable to be punished with the imposition of a fine up to Rs 1 crore and proportionate cost of examination shall also be recovered from it, if the service provider is involved in illegal practices.
Historical Context of Examination Malpractices in India
Examination malpractices in India is not new, characterized by numerous high-profile incidents that have exposed the vulnerabilities and loopholes in the system. These malpractices range from leakage of question papers to impersonation and bribery, affecting the integrity of examinations at various levels.

CBSE Paper Leak (2018)

CBSE paper leak in the year 2018 was one of the biggest examination scandals that was reported in recent years. The Mathematics paper of Class 10 and the Economics paper of Class 12 were leaked at the social networking sites before the actual dates of examinations and it caused troubles for more than two millions of students. This fuelled the already aggrieved students, parents, and educators into calling for strict & appropriate measures to be taken in order to ensure the prevention of such occurrences in the future.

Police introduced the CBI in the case to investigate the leakage, and based on the leakage that unfolded through the pages, another network that circulated the papers through the Use of the WhatsApp group was unveiled. It was an eye-opener in the aspect of security in the examination process, as well as the laxity in penalties meted on those involved in fraudulent activities concerning examinations.

Vyapam Scam (2013)

The case of Madhya Pradesh Vyapam exam fraud was one of the largest and complex scandals in the examinations in India. It was a major aftermath relating to cheating in the entrance examinations for the medical and various other professional courses conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB). Some of the practices adopted included impersonation, offering of gifts to some people and altering records. More than 2000 people including politicians, civil servants, and touts have been accused in the scam. That is why the Supreme Court of India launched a CBI investigation, as a result of which many arrests and trials were carried out. The Vyapam scam painted the examination system a massively corrupt entity in need of major overhauls to purge the vices.

Statistical Overview

Statistically, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed that there are about 2,000 cases of examination malpractices recorded in the year 2018 only. Such cases as cases of leakage of examination papers, impersonation and other instances of administrative malfeasance regarding the administration of the examinations. The estimated actual number of malpractices is even greater since many do not come to the attention of the institutions' authorities. These malpractices have severe financial and psychological tolls on the students, and the whole of the education system requires stronger measures to deal with them.

Challenges And Recommendations Challenges:
  1. Implementation Across Diverse Regions: A major challenge is to achieve compliance with the Act across various geographical and administrative areas of the country. The scale, availability, and capacity of resources, infrastructures, and officials as well as coordination among them may impact the measures required by the Act.
  2. Technological Infrastructure: Paying for the required technological needs including the creation of an examination system that can only be compromised with significant difficulty can be relatively expensive. As for the role of security, it must be said that smaller examining bodies and institutions can experience difficulties in implementing such enhanced registration and verification methods as biometrics and central controls.
  3. Resistance to Change: This might due to the fact that the stakeholders involved in the examination activities may not accept change brought by the Act from the traditional examination practices. This can hamper the effectiveness of the above measures and translate to the Act's performance levels on the low end.
  1. Capacity Building: Academic education oriented in the training and capacity builds of examination officials and service providers are useful in a smooth implementation of the Act. Such programs may target at being an improvement on the technical and administrative matters of the implementation of the Act so that officials have adequate knowledge regarding the new measures.
  2. Public Awareness: This basically means that with awareness campaigns such as the one on fair examinations, the public can be counted on to support, and even obey. Such campaigns can highlight on the need and importance of the Act to ensure that it is implemented among the stakeholders.
  3. Continuous Monitoring: Audits can be conducted at various intervals as well as constant supervision of examination processes might be useful in regard to realization of the possible problems. Such check-ins can help the organs of state power to track the degree of the act's implementation and adherence to constantly update and reinforce them.

They called the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 a great stride towards the fight against unfair means in public examination in India. Thus, by eliminating the sources of examination malpractice and putting in place sound preventive measures, the Act serves to rebuild people's confidence in examinations. However, it should be noted that to achieve them, involvement, coordination, evaluation, and sustenance initiatives must be collective engagement from all concerned parties and value systems to practice and keep up a high standard of fairness and transparency.

The provisions of the Act are extensive while the penalties for offenders are severe, this coupled with the security measures that had to be embraced has in one way or the other helped to bring down incidences of examination malpractices. With the enhanced responsibility and order between the examination organizations and police stations, it has facilitated efficient investigation and prosecution of the offenses. Still, the Act's potential for changing the nature of examinations is clear, despite the issues that still persist. If these difficulties and others is overcome and if there is constant enhancement of the act's implementation in India, the public examination can be conducted honestly.

  • Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024. [PDF document].
  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report, 2018.
  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Paper Leak, 2018.
  • Vyapam Scam, Madhya Pradesh, 2013.
  • National Testing Agency (NTA) Reports on JEE and NEET Examinations.

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