Critical Analysis of the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024

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The Bill entitled as “The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024″ serves as an important foundational bill for the Indian legislature to deal with the rampant menace of examination malpractice in India. This bill has been introduced in the wake of scandals that have involved trusted and reputable institutions and offices such as NEET-UG 2024 paper leakage to ensure rigid measures were implemented to protect the integrity of public examinations. Nonetheless, a critical analysis of the bill points out that although its goals are noble, it has its merits as well as its flaws that need further improvements.

Key Provisions and Their Implications

First and foremost, the bill gives a clear conceptual matrix as all terms inclusive of candidate, communication device, public examination authority, and unfair means have been defined in a clear and elaborate manner. On this understanding that the bill categorically spells out unfair means as comprising activities such as leakage of examination papers, tampering with results, cheating, among other things, the bill covers different aspects of examination malpractice.

However, when it comes to the practical applicability of these definitions it becomes a challenging process. The categorization of computers and other digital apparatus under ‘communication devices’ means that examination authorities must have technologically sophisticated means to police and regulate digital communication. This requirement calls for significant capital outlay on advanced technology and extensive training, the availability of which may vary between the various regions of the country and hence the possibility of differential implementation of the requirement.

The bill proposes severe punitive measures of between three and ten years’ imprisonment and fines not exceeding one crore Indian rupees for anyone found guilty of unfair means. While these severe penalties act as a strong disincentive to eliminate the malpractices, they still depend on the effectiveness of the judicial system which is noticeably slow, even congested at times. These penalties could do little to deter examination fraud if there were no concurrent judicial Reforms of equal speed to handle the cases of examination fraud.

Also, the bill requires that all offences committed by the service providers be reported instantly, failure to which attracts critical penalties. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that all the stakeholders involved in the examination process take accountability for whatever they are doing. However, the success of this provision is dependent on the development of effective monitoring and reporting frameworks. Examination authorities have to design effective mechanisms for monitoring and reporting all kinds of malpractices in real-time, harnessing use of AI-based surveillance and data analytics to identify irregular patterns indicative of cheating or paper leaks.

Case Studies and Comparative Analysis

NEET-UG 2024 paper leak scam is a laser-cut example as it emphasized that examination fraud networks are not simple. It was stated that brokers actually sold leaked question papers to students for substantial amount of money thereby suggesting the presence of a criminal syndicate. The Economic Offences Unit (EOU), belonging to Bihar Police, arrested several people, including the candidates and other middlemen, which shows that such operations may be quite intricate. This scandal underlines the necessity of the multiple-layered preventive strategies in regards to the distribution of the question papers and their protection, monitoring the examination process in real time, and post-examination forensic analysis that can identify any abnormalities.

Another example can be the paper leak of the National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) in 2024 where the exam was cancelled on the very next day of it being held. This event further calls for stricter laws and proper measures that can help to avoid such circumstances.

To look at the observed successes and failures of the bill, it is crucial to consider comparative experiences of other countries. Currently, the UK’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OFQUAL) uses statistical approaches to analyse data and identify irregularities suggesting cheating in examinations. South Korea has adopted sophisticated means such as biometric verification and artificial intelligence for surveillance to enhance examination credibility. The Public Examinations Bill might equally benefit from the use of the similar state-of-the-art technologies to the nearly identical extent. With AI-based proctoring systems, examinees can be monitored in real-time, and most of the suspicious behaviours can be identified accurately. Identification helps to ensure that the person who shows up for the examination is the same person who registered for it and not a impersonator. In terms of distribution and storage of the question papers, blockchain technology holds the potential to ensure safe distribution and storage of the question papers, where access to the documents is as good as impossible to unauthorized individuals.

Economic Impact and Cost-Benefit Analysis

When the Public Examinations Bill is to be put into practice, it involves a heavy capital investment in terms of technology, infrastructure, man and financial resources for replacing old techniques with modern techniques, training and developing human resources, and administrative overheads. Although the costs associated with the implementation of these strategies, the overall net benefits realised from the prevention of examination fraud surpass overall costs in the longer run.

When meritocracy is maintained, the deserving candidates will be hired which creates a more capable and productive populace for several sectors. Increased trust in the education system enhances credibility, attracting more international students and partnerships, thereby boosting the education sector’s economic contribution. The reduction in paper leaks and cancellations saves significant resources currently spent on conducting re-examinations. Long-term productivity gains can be expected as a fairly selected workforce based on merit contributes to increased productivity and innovation across industries. Furthermore, a trustworthy examination system encourages talented individuals to pursue opportunities within India rather than seeking education abroad, potentially reducing brain drain.

Strengths of the Bill

The bill’s comprehensive coverage addresses both traditional and modern, technologically-driven methods of cheating, closing potential loopholes. Its strong deterrent effect, through stringent penalties, makes engagement in examination fraud both legally risky and economically unviable. The enhancement of accountability through the mandatory reporting of offences makes all stakeholders maintain high levels of integrity. Moreover, the structure of the proposed bill provides for the ability to add new methodologies in practice in the fight against fraud, making it possible to prepare for further technological developments.

Areas for Improvement and Recommendations

To address implementation challenges, a phased implementation plan should be developed, prioritizing high-stakes national examinations before expanding to state and local levels. Establishing a centralized Examination Integrity Commission would help oversee implementation, provide resources, and ensure uniformity in standards across regions.

Judicial efficiency can be improved by establishing special courts dedicated to examination fraud cases, with streamlined procedures for swift adjudication. Introducing time-bound resolution mandates for examination fraud cases would prevent prolonged legal battles.

Technological integration should be mandated, including the use of AI-based proctoring systems and biometric verification for all public examinations above a certain scale or importance. Developing a national blockchain-based system for secure question paper distribution and answer sheet management would significantly enhance security.

Whistle-blower protection should be explicitly included in the bill, providing legal immunity and financial incentives for verified information leading to convictions. An anonymous, encrypted reporting system managed by an independent body would encourage reporting without fear of retaliation.

Moreover, necessary steps should include the basic reinforcement of procedural precautions that would require all members of staff involved in the examination process, from paper setters to proctors, to undergo ethics training. Inclusion of checks as routine practice and compliance through random audits of examination centers, as well as surprise inspections would help maintain compliance constantly.

It should be noted that the countries must enhance international cooperation and sign bilateral treaties with other states regarding measures against examination fraud, including online examinations. It can be presumed that participation in these forums would facilitate the sharing of best practice and awareness of current global trends in examination security.


The Bill named ‘The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024’ is a laudable initiative to check examination fraud in India. Its coverage and strict regulations show its genuine interest in maintaining the ‘purity’ of the examination system. However, the success of the bill will depend on implementation, technology incorporation and the ability to adapt to new challenges as they arise.

Therefore, the proposed improvements when implemented would ensure that the identified areas of improvement are enhanced and a better examination system in India is realized. This goal can be achieved by incorporating modern technology, new reforms in civil and criminal procedures, and the strong protection of whistle-blowers.

The success of this bill is crucial to India as it strives to become an education destination for the world and a knowledge economy. This not only helps in protecting the authenticity of qualifications issued in India but also helps in the better assessment of human capital in the country that is, in turn, a key factor in sustainable economic and social development. With these measures in place, the Public Examinations Bill can go a long way in addressing the issue of examination fraud, rehabilitate the image of examinations in public esteem, rekindle the spirit of meritocracy that is so sacred in the country and essential for India’s future growth and competitiveness.

This article is authored by Ms. Tridha Gosain and Mr. Kartik Shrivastava, students at DNLU, Jabalpur.

Views expressed are personal.


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