We wrote an FAQ on the Lok Pal Bill for Rediff. See http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-all-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-lokpal-bill/20110808.htm The full text is reproduced below. What is the purpose of the Lok Pal Bill? The Bill seeks to establish an institution that will inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries. It establishes the office of the Lok Pal for this purpose. What is the composition of the Lok Pal? The Lok Pal shall consist of a Chairperson and up to eight members. The Chairperson, and at least half of the members have to be current or former judges of the Supreme Court or Chief Justices of High Courts. The other members will have at least 25 years experience in matters related to anti-corruption policy, vigilance, public administration, finance, law and management. Who selects the Lok Pal? The Selection Committee consists of the Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition in each House of Parliament, a Union Cabinet Minister, a sitting Supreme Court Judge, a sitting High Court Chief Justice, an eminent jurist, a person of eminence in public life. The two judges on this Committee will be nominated by the Chief Justice of India. Who comes under the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal? There are seven categories of persons under the Lok Pal: (a) Prime Minister after demitting office; (b) current and former Ministers; (c) current and former MPs (d) all Group A officers of the central government; (e) all Group A equivalent officers or PSUs and other government bodies; (f) directors and officers of NGOs which receive government financing; (g) directors and officers of NGOs which receive funds from the public, and have annual income above a level to be notified by the government. The speech and vote of MPs in Parliament are exempt from the purview of the Lok Pal. What are the major powers of the Lok Pal? The Lok Pal has two major wings: investigation wing and prosecution wing. The Lok Pal can ask the investigation wing to conduct preliminary investigation of any offence alleged to be committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It can then conduct an inquiry. If the inquiry concludes that an offence was committed, the Lok Pal can recommend disciplinary action. It can also file a case in the Special Court. Does the Lok Pal need any prior sanction to initiate any action? No. The Bill states that the Lok Pal does not need prior sanction to inquire into an offence, or to initiate prosecution in the special court. What are special courts under this Bill? The central government is required to constitute special courts to hear and decide cases under this Bill. The Lok Pal shall recommend the number of such courts. What are the various time limits for conducting inquiry and trial? All preliminary investigation or inquiry must be completed within 30 days of the complaints (and can be extended for a further three months, with written reasons). The inquiry is to be completed within six months (extendable by six months). The trial is to be completed within one year of filing the case. This time may be extended by three months (and in further periods of three months each time) with written reasons, but the total time should not exceed two years. How can the Lok Pal be removed from office? The President may make a reference to the Supreme Court, (a) either on his own, or (b) if 100 MPs sign a petition, or (c) if a citizen makes a petition and the President is satisfied that it should be referred. If the Supreme Court, after an inquiry, finds the charge of misbehaviour was valid against the Chairperson or a Member and recommends removal, he shall be removed by the President. What are the provisions for the expenses of the Lok Pal? The Bill provides that all expenses will be charged, i.e., the amount will be provided without requiring a vote in Parliament. The Bill estimates recurring expenditure of Rs 100 crore per annum, and a non-recurring expenditure of Rs 50 crore. It also estimates a further Rs 400 crore for a building. What are the major differences from the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Team-Anna? There are several differences. The composition of the Lok Pal and the selection process are different; the Jan Lok Pal draft included a search committee with civil society members to shortlist the eligible members of the Lok Pal. The Lok Pal had jurisdiction over the PM, the judiciary and all public servants (only Group A officers in the government Bill); it included the speech and vote of MPs in Parliament; it did not include NGOs. The Jan Lok Pal Bill provided that the investigation and prosecution wings of the CBI shall report to the Lok Pal for corruption cases. It also had penalties ranging from six months to life imprisonment (under the government Bill, the maximum imprisonment is derived from the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and is 7 years).
In the last few years, several states have enacted laws to curb cheating in examinations, especially those for recruitment in public service commissions. According to news reports, incidents of cheating and paper leaks have occurred on several occasions in Uttarakhand, including during the panchayat development officer exams in 2016, and the Uttarakhand Subordinate Services Selection Commission exams in 2021. The Uttarakhand Public Service Commission papers were also leaked in January 2023. The most recent cheating incidents led to protests and unrest in Uttarakhand. Following this, on February 11, 2023, the state promulgated an Ordinance to bar and penalise the use of unfair means in public examinations. The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Bill replacing the Ordinance in March 2023. There have been multiple reports of candidates being arrested and debarred for cheating in public examinations for posts such as forest guard and secretariat guard after the ordinance’s introduction. Similar instances of cheating have also been noted in other states. As per news reports, since 2015, Gujarat has not been able to hold a single recruitment exam without reported paper leaks. In February 2023, the Gujarat Assembly also passed a law to penalise cheating in public examinations. Other states such as Rajasthan (Act passed in 2022), Uttar Pradesh (Act passed in 1998) and Andhra Pradesh (Act passed in 1997) also have similar laws. In this blog, we compare anti-cheating laws across some states (see Table 1), and discuss some issues to consider.
Typical provisions of anti-cheating laws
Anti-cheating laws across states generally contain provisions that penalise the use of unfair means by examinees and other groups in public examinations such as those conducted by state public sector commission examinations and higher secondary education boards. Broadly, unfair means is defined to include the use of unauthorised help and the unauthorised use of written material by candidates. These laws also prohibit individuals responsible for conducting examinations from disclosing any information they acquire in this role. The more recent laws, such as the Gujarat, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan ones, also include the impersonation of candidates and the leaking of exam papers within the definition of unfair means. Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh prohibit the use of electronic aids. Maximum prison sentences for using such unfair means range from three months in Uttar Pradesh, to seven years in Andhra Pradesh.
Issues to consider
The Gujarat and Uttarakhand anti-cheating Acts have relatively stringent provisions for cheating. The Uttarakhand Act has a fixed 3-year prison sentence for examinees caught cheating or using unfair means (for the first offence). Since the Act does not distinguish between the different types of unfair means used, an examinee could serve a sentence disproportionate to the offence committed. In most other states, the maximum imprisonment term for such offences is three years. Andhra Pradesh has a minimum imprisonment term of three years. However, all these states allow for a range with respect to the penalty, that is, the judge can decide on the imprisonment term (within the specified limits) depending on the manner of cheating and the implications of such cheating. Table 1 below compares the penalties for certain offences across eight states.
The Uttarakhand Act has a provision that debars the examinee from state competitive examinations for two to five years upon the filing of the chargesheet, rather than upon conviction. Thus, an examinee could be deprived of giving the examination even if they were innocent but being prosecuted under the law. This could compromise the presumption of innocence for accused candidates. The Gujarat and Rajasthan laws also debar candidates from sitting in specified examinations for two years, but only upon conviction.
These laws also vary in scope across states. In Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, the laws only apply to competitive examinations for recruitment in a state department (such as a Public Commission). In the other six states examined, these laws also apply to examinations held by educational institutions for granting educational qualifications such as diplomas and degrees. For example, in Gujarat, exams conducted by the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board are also covered under the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2023. The question is whether it is appropriate to have similar punishments for exams in educational institutions and exams for recruitment in government jobs, given the difference in stakes between them.
Sources: The Rajasthan Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2022; the Uttar Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 1998; the Chhattisgarh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2008; the Orissa Conduct of Examinations Act, 1988; the Andhra Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Malpractices and Unfair means) Act, 1997; the Jharkhand Conduct of Examinations Act, 2001, the Uttarakhand Competitive Examination (Measures for Prevention and Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2023, the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Methods) Act, 2023; PRS.