The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed an ‘anti-cheating’ bill to check fraudulent practices – such as leaking exam papers – in government recruitment exams.

The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha and, when cleared, presented to President Droupadi Murmu for her assent before it becomes law.

Under this bill, students who take competitive exams in good faith (i.e., they do not knowingly seek to profit from cheating) will not be targeted. However, those who leak exam papers or tamper with answer sheets, by colluding with officials will face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of ₹1 crore.

Significantly, all offences under this bill shall be cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable, meaning police will be empowered to act on its own (and arrest suspects without a warrant), the accused will not be entitled to bail, and the alleged offences cannot be settled via compromise.

Tabled in the Lower House by junior Personnel Minister Jitendra Singh, the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill references “leakage of question paper, or answer key” and “directly or indirectly assisting the candidate in any (unauthorised) manner” as some of the offences.

Others include “creation of fake website(s) to cheat or for monetary gain” and the conduct of fake examinations or issuing of fake admit cards and/or offer letters for similar ends.

“Any exam wants to test the real level, the knowledge and mental capability, of all candidates. If there is an unfair advantage to any one person, or group of people, this is not good for the growth of the nation,” Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, the junior Union Education Minister, told NDTV this week.

“He, or she, may pass with a high score… but he, or she, may not be able to contribute anything to the growth of the country. So, in the long run, we want capable citizens by 2047,” he said, “So we have to have this bill… to prohibit an unfair advantage…”

Under the bill, any person or group found guilty of leaking a paper, or tampering with answer sheets will receive a minimum three-year jail term. This can be extended to five years with a fine up to ₹10 lakh.

Service providers who do not report a possible offence can be fined up to ₹1 crore, and senior managers of such firms may be jailed for up to 10 years and/or receive a similar fine.

Finally, those found guilty of the “organised crime of paper leak” may receive jail terms of five to 10 years, and have to pay fines of up to ₹1 crore.

An officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, or Assistant Commissioner of Police, will be tasked with investigating any complaints.

The bill covers recruitment examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, Staff Selection Commission, Railway Recruitment Board, Institute of Banking Personnel Selection, and the National Testing Agency, among others.