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NEW DELHI: Amid the controversy over NEET-UG results and cancellation of UGC-NET exam due to paper leak, the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 – the law passed by Parliament in February to prevent paper leakage in examinations for central recruitment and entrance to central educational institutions – came into force on Friday.

“In exercise of the powers conferred on it by sub-section (2) of Section 1 of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 (1 of 2024), the Central Government hereby fixes 21st June, 2024, as the date from which the provisions of the said Act shall come into force,” said an official notification from the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions on Friday.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, the first national law against the use of unfair means to manipulate recruitment examinations conducted by the UPSC, Staff Selection Commission, Railway Recruitment Board, Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) and entrance examinations to central educational institutions like JEE, NEET and CUET, aims to address problems related to unfair means in the conduct of these examinations which do not fall within the purview of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.

The Exam Paper Leaking Act provides for imprisonment of 3 to 5 years and fine of up to Rs 10 lakh for persons impersonating candidates, solving exam papers and failing to report exam cheating. Those involved in organised cheating and other misdemeanours face imprisonment of 5 to 10 years and a fine of at least Rs 1 crore.

The essence of the proposed law is to crack down on individuals, organized mafias and institutions involved in paper leaks, paper tampering, identity fraud and hacking of computer resources, often in collaboration with elements within the “system” to obtain money or ill-gotten gains. Bona fide students whose futures are jeopardized by undetected leaks, exam cancellations and delay of results will not be prosecuted.

Service providers and institutions found guilty of audit manipulation must, by law, bear the relevant audit costs.

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