Gujarat exam paper leak protests
After the exam papers for the position of junior clerks to the Gujarat Panchayat Service Selection Board (GPSSB) were leaked, the exams were cancelled. This led to statewide protests

After 13 govt exam paper leaks in nine years, Gujarat proposes new law

In a significant move, the Gujarat government, on February 16, submitted a draft of the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill 2023 to the assembly secretariat. The bill is slated to be tabled in the budget session of the assembly that will commence from February 24 this year.

The minimum punishment under the proposed Bill is three years of imprisonment and a fine of ₹1 lakh, while the maximum punishment would be 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of ₹1 crore. The draft states, “If any person in an organised crime is in conspiracy with the examination authority or indulges in unfair means or abets to contravene any provision of the Act, the punishment shall be for a term not less than seven years and might extend to 10 years, with an added fine of not less than ₹1 crore.”

“If an examinee gets convicted, the person shall be barred from any public examination within the state for at least two years,” the draft further states, adding that all offences under the Act shall be non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable and shall be invested by an officer of not less than the rank of a police inspector.

The move comes just a week after Hasmukh Patel, an IPS officer of the 1993 batch, was appointed as the chairperson of the Gujarat Panchayat Service Selection Board (GPSSB), replacing IAS officer Sandeep Kumar.

Noticeably, the newly-formed Bhupendra Patel-led BJP government came under a lot of flak from the Opposition, both the Congress and AAP, after the entrance examination paper for the position of junior clerks conducted by GPSSB, was leaked hours ahead of its commencement on January 29 this year.

Also read: Cash-strapped Gujarat municipalities default electricity bills

Protests by youths and the Opposition

Subsequently, the examination was called off, leading to statewide protests by youths. A total of 9.5 lakh aspirants were to take the recruitment examination for 1,181 vacant positions. To pacify the protestors, the government announced free transportation in state buses, for all those who had travelled from their home districts to the 2,995 exam centres spread across the state.

Gujarat exam leak case
The government organised transport for the aspirants who had come from all over the state to return home

The incident also sparked protests by the Opposition Congress and AAP across the state. While both parties submitted memorandums in major cities like Ahmedabad and Surat, AAP demanded that the aspirants should be compensated with ₹50,000 each.

AAP protests in Gujarat over exam leak case
The recent exam paper leak incident also sparked protests by the Opposition Congress and AAP across the state

The posts of the 1,181 junior clerks that carries a salary of ₹19,950, have remained vacant since the year 2016, when GPSSB had first made the announcement. Since then, the exam has been cancelled thrice – first in 2014, owing to huge number of applications; in November 2022, due to the state polls and in January this year, the paper leak derailed the exam.

The GPSSB has announced that the exam will be now conducted in April this year.

13th paper leak case in Gujarat since 2014

Noticeably, this is the thirteenth paper leak case involving government recruitment examinations in the state since 2014. In 2014, question papers for Gujarat Public Service Chief (GPSC) officer recruitment exam was leaked, in 2015, papers for the Talati exam for lower level clerical posts and in 2016, the question papers of the Talati exam (to fill up vacancies in Gandhinagar, Modasa and Surendranagar) also got out before the exam.

In 2018, question papers of multiple recruitment exams were leaked such as the Mukhya Sevika entrance exam for police women, TAT–Teacher’s recruitment, Nayaab Chitnis (for revenue department posts) recruitment exam and Lok Rakshak Dal entrance exam.

Also read: Will BJP order CBI probe into paper leak incidents in Madhya Pradesh: Gehlot hits back at opposition

In 2019, the papers of the non-secretariat clerk exam was leaked and in the year 2021, papers of the exam for head clerk, state electricity distributor in south Gujarat, DGVCL Vidyut Sahayak (electrical assistant) and exam for the post of sub-auditor, were leaked. In 2022, papers for the recruitment exam for forest guards were leaked.

The Modus Operandi

Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and the Surat Crime Branch had arrested 15 people from Vadodara following the exam paper leak. Most of the accused are residents of Bihar, Odisha and Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

Police had informed the media that multiple suspects, including Bhaskar Chaudhary, a Bihar resident, were involved in the question paper leak incidents in Gujarat in the past. Pradipkumar Vijaya Nayak, a resident of Orissa, has been identified by the police, as the key accused who would arrange for the question papers. After which, Ketan Barot, a Vadodara resident would arrange the sale of the papers to various aspirants. The whole operation was being run by a Vadodara-based company called Stackwise technology.

As per the FIR, the group is said to have received the question papers from Jeet Nayak, an employee working in the Hyderabad-based High Tech Printing Press, where the question papers gets printed.

Recommendation of Gujarat State Law Commission

In July last year, the Gujarat State Law Commission (GSLC) had recommended bringing in a separate law against the practice of “rampant” paper leaks in the state. The Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge MB Shah had submitted a report to the Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs department stating that, “rampantly increasing incidents of paper leak in recruitment exams in Gujarat, is creating difficulty amongst youth who seriously prepare for such exams.”

The commission also stated the need to fill up the vacancies immediately in various departments observing that, “one of the reasons behind paper leaks may be due to involvement of influential people in the state government but unfortunately they are never caught.”

“It is sad that the big fish always escapes the law while those who get arrested are usually ordinary people,” the report further stated.

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