Government Enforces Stringent Anti-Paper Leak Law: Up to ₹10 Lakh Fine and 3-5 Years Jail for Offenders, ₹1 Crore Fine for Non-Reporting Service Providers

New Delhi – In a decisive effort to tackle the persistent issue of exam malpractice, the Indian government has enacted the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024. This robust legislation, coming into effect amidst the uproar over NEET and UGC-NET irregularities, seeks to ensure the sanctity of public examinations across the nation.

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, addressing queries about the Act’s implementation, assured that the law ministry had expedited the rule-framing process. The Act, effective from June 21, 2024, prescribes severe penalties for offences. Individuals caught leaking exam papers or tampering with answer sheets face imprisonment ranging from three to five years, and fines up to ₹10 lakh. The law also stipulates that all offences are cognisable and non-bailable, underscoring the government’s zero-tolerance policy.

Significantly, the Act mandates heavy fines for examination service providers who fail to report known malpractices, with penalties reaching up to ₹1 crore. Senior officials complicit in such activities face harsher consequences, including imprisonment from three to ten years and a fine of ₹1 crore. Organized offences by exam authorities attract a minimum of five years in prison.

The Act’s scope extends to preventing the unauthorized disclosure of exam information and barring unauthorized individuals from disrupting exam centres. Violations will result in three to five years of imprisonment and hefty fines.

This law’s introduction is timely, addressing the controversies surrounding the NEET and UGC-NET exams. The recent NEET-UG 2024 exam, conducted on May 5, had its results prematurely announced on June 4, amid allegations of malpractice. The NTA’s decision to cancel the scorecards of 1563 candidates awarded “grace marks” and offer them a retake on June 23, highlights the urgency of the new law.

The Act aims to restore faith in the examination system by promoting transparency and fairness. Passed during the Budget session and receiving Presidential assent from President Droupadi Murmu in February, the legislation targets a wide range of examinations conducted by authorities like the Union Public Service Commission, Railway Recruitment Board, and National Testing Agency.