Source: The Assam Tribune Relevance: GS-II (Indian Polity) & GS-V (Assam Specifics)

Context: On the inaugural day of the budget session in the legislative assembly, the Assam government tabled the Assam Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Bill, 2024 on Monday (5th Feb ,2024).


The legislation, introduced by Pijush Hazarika, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, on behalf of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, aims to introduce strong actions to prevent and tackle issues such as question paper leaks and cheating in public recruitment tests. The goal is to maintain the honesty and clarity of the exam procedures for different positions within the State government's domain, including those in autonomous entities, authorities, boards, or corporations.

Assam Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Bill, 2024

Key Provisions and Penalties:

Misconduct by Candidates:

  • Candidates caught cheating or involved in question paper fraud could be sentenced to up to three years in jail and fined at least one lakh rupees.

  • Failure to pay the fine could result in an additional three months of jail time.

Violations by Others:

  • People, whether part of the examination process or not, caught leaking, obtaining, selling, or printing exam papers could receive a jail term of five to ten years and a fine between 10 lakh and 10 crore rupees.

  • Not paying the fine could lead to an extra two years in jail.

Exclusion and Compensation Orders:

  • The government can exclude anyone found guilty under this Bill from participating in any public exam for two years.

  • The Court can mandate the restitution of any profits gained through organized examination fraud.

Responsibility of Authorities or Schools:

  • Authorities or institutions convicted under this law may have to cover all related examination costs as set by the Special Court and could be permanently prohibited.

Investigation and Legal Process:

  • Police officers at or above the rank of Deputy Superintendent are authorized to investigate these crimes.

  •  Special Courts, established with the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court's agreement, will handle these cases, with those at or above the level of Additional District and Sessions Judge serving as Special Courts.

Scope of Application: 

The Bill extends its coverage to public examinations conducted by various recruitment bodies, including to the Assam Public Service Commission, State Level Recruitment Commissions, Educational Boards, Police Recruitment Boards, and other governmental and semi-governmental entities involved in recruitment processes.

Positive Aspects of the Assam Public Examination Bill, 2024:

  • Combatting Unfair Means: The bill effectively tackles the widespread issue of unfair practices in public recruitment examinations, ensuring a level playing field for all candidates.

  • Enhanced Transparency: By imposing stringent measures against leakage of question papers and unauthorized assistance, the bill enhances the transparency and integrity of the examination process.

  • Deterrence through Penalties: The provision of imprisonment and substantial fines serves as a strong deterrent, dissuading both examinees and individuals involved in malpractices from engaging in such activities.

  • Empowering Law Enforcement: Designating police officers of appropriate rank for investigation ensures thorough and efficient handling of examination-related offences, contributing to the enforcement of the law.

  •  Judicial Accountability: The establishment of Special Courts, overseen by the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court, ensures swift and impartial adjudication of offences under the bill, promoting judicial accountability and fairness.

  • Examinee Accountability: By debarring convicted examinees from future public examinations, the bill holds individuals accountable for their actions, discouraging repeat offences and fostering a culture of ethical conduct.

  • Institutional Responsibility: Holding management or institutions accountable for examination-related offences not only imposes financial repercussions but also instils a sense of responsibility, encouraging proactive measures to prevent malpractices.

  • Preventive Measures: Provisions such as the prohibition of unauthorized assistance and designated examination centres proactively address potential avenues for malpractices, pre-emptively safeguarding the examination process.

  •  Empowerment through Designation: Designating courts of session and police officers of sufficient rank empowers law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to effectively address and prosecute examination-related offences, ensuring swift and decisive action.

  •  Comprehensive Coverage: The bill’s broad scope encompasses various recruitment bodies and examinations, leaving no room for loopholes and ensuring uniform application of preventive measures across different sectors.

Negative Aspects:

  • Potential for Misuse: Despite its noble intentions, there’s a risk that the bill could be misused for political or personal vendettas, with individuals falsely accused or unfairly targeted.

  •  Impact on Vulnerable Groups: Strict penalties may disproportionately affect marginalized or economically disadvantaged individuals, who may resort to unfair means due to lack of access to resources or support.

  • Burden on Judiciary: The establishment of Special Courts and the designation of specific police officers may strain the judicial system and law enforcement resources, leading to delays in processing cases and backlog.

  • Erosion of Trust: Excessive focus on punitive measures could erode trust between educators, students, and institutions, fostering an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility rather than collaboration and mutual respect.

  •  Unintended Consequences: Harsh penalties may drive malpractices further underground, making them harder to detect and address, while also potentially pushing individuals towards more sophisticated and harder-to-detect methods of cheating.

  •  Resource Allocation: Enforcing the provisions of the bill may require significant financial and human resources, diverting attention and funding away from other pressing educational priorities, such as infrastructure development or teacher training.

Way Forward

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Encourage active participation and feedback from stakeholders, including educators, students, civil society organizations, and legal experts, to ensure that the bill reflects diverse perspectives and concerns.

  •  Capacity Building: Invest in training programs for law enforcement officials, judiciary personnel, and examination authorities to enhance their capacity to effectively implement the provisions of the bill and handle examination-related offences with diligence and sensitivity.

  • Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation: Institute mechanisms for regular monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the bill, including its impact on examination integrity, access to education, and the prevalence of malpractices, with a view to making necessary adjustments and improvements over time.

  •  Promotion of Ethical Culture: Foster a culture of integrity, honesty, and ethical conduct in education through initiatives such as value-based education programs, integrity pledges, and recognition of individuals and institutions that uphold ethical standards.

  •  Research and Innovation: Encourage research and innovation in assessment and examination practices to develop robust, technology-enabled solutions for preventing malpractices while ensuring the validity, reliability, and fairness of examinations.

  •  Legislative Review: Conduct periodic reviews of the bill to assess its effectiveness, identify emerging challenges or gaps, and propose amendments or supplementary measures as necessary to address evolving threats to examination integrity and uphold the principles of fairness and transparency.

The Assam Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Practices in Recruitment) Bill, 2024, represents a forward-thinking move by the state government to promote fairness, clarity, and responsibility in public recruitment tests. With its detailed measures designed to prevent cheating and maintain the integrity of the hiring process, it aims to build public trust and assurance. Debate on this important piece of legislation is expected during the current Budget session of the state legislature.

Advait IAS