Over 11 lakh candidates appeared for the exam. The government has also handed over the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) for a probe.

The cancellation of UGC-NET comes amid ongoing controversy over alleged irregularities in the medical entrance exam – NEET. Both exams are conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

Also Read: NEET-UG 2024 row: Supreme Court seeks responses from Centre, NTA on paper leak allegations

The UGC-NET examination is key to finding an entry-level teaching job in Indian universities and for admissions to PhD programmes. With the decision, it has become the first centrally conducted public examination to be scrapped after the PM Narendra Modi-led Union government brought in a new ‘anti-paper leak’ law many months ago.

Known as the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, this ‘anti-paper leak’ bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on February 5, 2024. It was passed in the Lok Sabha on February 6 and in the Rajya Sabha on February 9, 2024. The same month, President Droupadi Murmu, cleared the bill, and it became law.

The idea behind the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024, was to prevent use of unfair means in public examinations. Public examinations refer to competition tests conducted by authorities, including the Union Public Service Commission, the Staff Selection Commission, the Railway Recruitment Board, the National Testing Agency (NTA), the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection, and the Union government departments and their attached offices for recruitment.

Offences under the law

This law covers a series of offences with regard to public examinations. It prohibits collusion to facilitate indulgence in any unfair means. The unfair means are specified to include unauthorised access or leakage of question papers or answer keys, assisting a candidate during a public examination, tampering with computer network or resources or documents for shortlisting or finalising the merit list or rank.

Also Read: UGC NET 2024 cancelled: When will fresh exam take place? NTA shares BIG update

Conducting fake examinations, issuing fake admit cards or offer letters to cheat, or for monetary gains are also offences under this law, according to PRS Legislative Research.

The law prohibits disclosing exam-related confidential information before time, and allowing unauthorised people into the exam centres.

Punishment

The law has a provision of punishing the above offences with imprisonment between three and five years, and a fine up to 10 lakh. The law also bans service providers from shifting the exam centre without permission from the examination authority. A service provider is an organisation that provides computer resources or any other support to a public examination authority.

Also Read: UGC NET 2024 cancelled: ’Paper leak government, cancel NEET too’, Congress criticises PM Modi over ’grace marks’ row

An offence by a service provider will be punishable with a fine of up to 1 crore, among other punishments.

Organised Crimes

The law has provisions of higher punishments for organised crimes – an unlawful act committed by a person or a group of persons for wrongful gain in during public examinations.

People found guilty of committing an organised crime will be punished with imprisonment between 5-10 years, and a fine of at least 1 crore. If an institution is held guilty of committing an organised crime, its property will be attached and a proportionate cost of the examination will also be recovered from it.

Investigation:

All offences under this law are cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable. An officer not below the rank Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police will investigate the offences under the law.

Also Read: UGC-NET 2024 cancelled: Demands for accountability, NTA ban, and CBI probe grow | 10 points

The central government is authorised to transfer the investigation to any central investigating agency.

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Published: 20 Jun 2024, 12:54 PM IST