India: Why Law Against Exam Cheating May Not Work


India’s parliament has passed a stringent new law to prevent cheating in exams for government jobs and admission to public colleges.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2024 – which was passed on Tuesday – carries a jail sentence of three to 10 years for those who facilitate cheating.

It also carries a fine ranging between 1 million rupees ($12,040; £9,551) and 10 million rupees.

The new law does not impose penalties directly on test takers; instead, their punishments will be determined by the rules set forth by their respective testing authorities.

The law will be applicable to most exams conducted by the federal government and its test agencies. All offences are non-bailable and will be investigated by senior police officials.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has said the act will bring “greater transparency, fairness and credibility” as it is the first federal legislation to prevent malpractices in examinations.

But critics argue that severe punishment alone won’t effectively address the issue, noting instances of cheating and impersonation already punishable under India’s criminal laws.

Hundreds of aspirants continued their protest outside the Staff Selection Commissions (SSC) office at CGO Complex demanding that Central Bureau of Investigation conduct an investigation into the alleged paper leak and mass cheating in the Combined Graduate-Level (CGL) Tier II examination, on March 3, 2018 in New Delhi, India
Image caption,Aspirants protesting against exam paper leaks in India

“The new law could prove to be ineffective because coaching centres collude with students to help them pass entrance examination,” says Ghanta Chakrapani, former chairman of a state-run organisation which recruits people for state government jobs.

In 2022, India’s top investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), arrested a Russian hacker for reportedly breaching the entrance exam for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The hacker allegedly worked for a coaching institute.

Cheating is prevalent in India due to the intensely competitive nature of government jobs and top college admission tests, where millions vie for a limited number of positions.

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