The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, aimed at tackling malpractices in state-run competitive exams, was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union minister Jitendra Singh on Monday, reported PTI.

The Bill comes against the backdrop of the cancellation of a series of competitive tests, including a teacher recruitment exam in Rajasthan, the Common Eligibility Test in Haryana, a recruitment exam for junior clerks in Gujarat and a constable recruitment examination in Bihar, due to question paper leaks.

In her January 31 address to a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, President Droupadi Murmu had called for a new law “to deal sternly with such malpractices”.

With the aim to create greater transparency and fairness, the bill includes stringent punishments, including a jail term of a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 years, with a Rs 1 crore fine, for those found to be a part of organised criminal activities in connection with recruitment tests.

The draft legislation lists 20 offences that may be committed in competitive exams, including impersonation, leaking of question papers, manipulation of answer sheets, manipulation of seating arrangements and tampering with documents to influence merit lists or candidates’ ranks.

It seeks to establish a high-level national technical committee on public examinations that will make suggestions on preventing such offences during computerised tests. The committee will also bring out national standards for securing digital examination centres and surveillance of physical examination centres.

The Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha has listed the bill for passage in the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament. If it does not get passed, the bill will lapse as the tenure of the 17th Lok Sabha will end with the Session.