New ‘Public Examinations Act, 2024’ enacted to tackle unfair practices in central recruitment and educational institution entrance exams

The Times of India, June 22, 2024

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 which aims to prevent unfair means in public examinations and common entrance tests held across the country came into effect on Friday.

This comes amid the massive row over the alleged malpractices in conducting the NEET and UGC NET examinations.

A gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said, “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.” The Bill was passed by the two Houses of Parliament in the Budget session which concluded on February 10. It seeks to prevent the use of “unfair means” in public examinations and bring “greater transparency, fairness and credibility”.

On February 13, President Droupadi Murmu gave her nod to the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means), Bill, 2024, which aims to check cheating in government recruitment exams.

The public examinations in the Act refer to examinations conducted by authorities notified by the central government. These include the Union Public Service Commission, Staff Selection Commission, Railway Recruitment Board, National Testing Agency, Institute of Banking Personnel Selection, and Departments of the central government and their attached offices for recruitment.

The Act also prohibits disclosing exam-related confidential information before time, and unauthorised people from entering exam centres to create disruptions. The offences will be punishable with imprisonment between three and five years, and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.

All offences under the Bill will be cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.

The NEET-UG 2024 exam was conducted on May 5 and its results were declared on June 4, ahead of its scheduled announcement date of June 14.

The NEET-UG examination, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), paves the way for admission to MBBS, BDS, AYUSH and other related courses in government and private institutions across the country.

On June 13, the NTA informed the Supreme Court that the scorecards of 1563 candidates who were awarded “grace marks” in the NEET-UG 2024 exam would be cancelled and these candidates would have an option to reappear for the exam on June 23, the results of which will be declared before June 30, or forgo the compensatory marks given for the loss of time.

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