To address the escalating issue of cheating in prominent examinations such as those conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, Staff Selection Commission, Railway Recruitment Board, National Testing Agency, Institute of Banking Personnel Selection, and various departments of the central government and their attached offices for recruitment, the Centre introduced the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024 in the Lok Sabha. This legislation aims to curb unfair practices and ensure the integrity of public examinations.


The Bill delineates several offences related to public examinations, aiming to prevent collusion or conspiracy that facilitates unfair means. The specified unfair means include:

1. Unauthorized access or leakage of question papers or answer keys.

2. Assisting a candidate during a public examination.

3. Tampering with computer networks or resources.

4. Tampering with documents for shortlisting or finalizing merit lists or ranks.

5. Conducting fake examinations, issuing fake admit cards, or offer letters to cheat for monetary gain.

Additionally, the Bill prohibits:

1. Disclosing exam-related confidential information prematurely.

2. Unauthorized persons from entering exam centers to create disruptions.

Violations of these provisions will result in imprisonment ranging from three to five years and fines up to Rs 10 lakh.


Service providers, defined as organizations that offer computer resources or other support to public examination authorities, have specific responsibilities under the Bill. They must report any violations of the Bill’s provisions to the police and the concerned examination authority. Failure to report such incidents is an offence. If a service provider commits an offence, the examination authority must report it to the police.

Service providers are prohibited from relocating exam centers without permission from the examination authority. Offences by service providers will incur fines up to one crore rupees, and they will be barred from conducting public examinations for four years. Additionally, the proportionate cost of the examination will be recovered from the service provider.

Should offences be committed with the consent or connivance of any director, senior management, or person-in-charge, those individuals will be personally liable, facing imprisonment between three to ten years and fines up to one crore rupees.


The Bill imposes harsher penalties for organized crimes, defined as unlawful acts committed by individuals or groups to further a shared interest for wrongful gain related to public examinations. Those found guilty of organized crimes will face imprisonment between five to ten years and fines of at least one crore rupees. Institutions held guilty of such crimes will have their property attached and forfeited, with the proportionate cost of the examination also recovered from them.


All offences under the Bill are cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable. Actions will not count as offences if it is proven that the accused exercised due diligence. Offences under the Act will be investigated by officers not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police. The central government may transfer investigations to any central investigating agency.

This Bill marks a significant step towards maintaining the sanctity and fairness of public examinations in India, ensuring that merit and integrity prevail in the recruitment process.


Opposition raised concern about the potential for the Bill to harass candidates, to which the Minister responded that it targets those who misuse the system. There is also anxiety about the lack of assurance for the timely completion of examinations following cancellations, which significantly impacts students. The Bill’s focus on punishment without addressing the root causes of cheating and the need for comprehensive policies to support students was another major point of contention. Critics highlighted the pressure of competitive exams, the role of coaching centers, and the disparity created by exams like NEET, which disadvantage students from certain educational backgrounds.


The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024 is a crucial step in ensuring the integrity of public examinations in India. By defining clear offences, imposing stringent penalties, and outlining responsibilities for service providers, the Bill aims to deter unfair practices and uphold a fair evaluation process. These measures are essential for maintaining public trust and meritocracy in governmental recruitment.

However, several potential drawbacks need attention. The stringent penalties may induce excessive fear and stress among students and service providers, necessitating proper guidelines and support mechanisms. Clear definitions of “unfair means” and “organized crime” are required to avoid ambiguity and wrongful accusations. Additionally, the Bill’s reliance on the efficiency and integrity of investigating authorities highlights the need for adequate training and oversight to prevent corruption and ensure impartial investigations.

Addressing these issues will be crucial for the successful implementation of the Bill, ensuring public examinations remain robust, fair, and trustworthy.


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