Repercussions of cheating in competitive exams

[ Sachin Rana ]

The Arunachal Pradesh Staff Selection Board (APSSB) has been in the news for the last few days as one of the aspirants was caught using her mobile phone inside the examination hall. As per the police preliminary investigations, she has operated the phone for about two hours in the hall where four invigilators were posted. She had been caught red handed by the staff posted there and was later handed over to the police authorities.

Permit me to explain the repercussions for the aspirant for indulging in such unfair practices. The candidate loses his/her chance to get selected in the said exam for sure even though he/she may plead that such means were not used. A criminal case is being registered by the police against the person and the associated accomplices.

Being on the wrong side of police investigation and interrogation is not a pleasant experience that anyone should aspire for, ever. Besides, the APSSB also does its scrutiny and in such clear-cut cases of cheating and mischief, the candidate is barred from appearing in the recruitment exam for numerous years. The quantum of punishment is adjudged by the gravity of the situation.

Let’s see the larger picture together. In case if such an act compromises the integrity of the recruitment test, then the recruitment agency has no option but to annul the entire process. This has severe repercussions. The sincere candidates are being punished for no reason of theirs.  The aspiring candidates have to rework again for the preparation and it involves not only the hard work but also the cost at many a times. The lost opportunity cost is also involved. The number of days a person could have worked, learnt the job and got appropriate remunerations can also be thought of.

The process of the recruitment is very detailed, meticulous and well planned. The day any department sends its recommendations for the recruitment of appropriate persons, the recruitment agency starts its work. The job application is prepared and the applications are being called for. The question papers are being set so that it may be appropriate level for the appearing candidates. The examination centers are being chosen so that it may cover maximum candidates at their locations. The invigilators, centre superintendent, nodal officer, executive magistrates, police staff and district superintendent etc are selected and trained. The process is further strengthened by deputing other senior officers for various duties such as Observers and Coordinators. The examination related material is being sent from the head quarter to the examination centers under due protection and surveillance.

Later it is given to the aspiring candidates for answering. Many-a-times jammers are used locally and few of the times internet facility for the entire region is being curtailed. After the examination, the process of collection the examination material and the filled OMR sheets deserves more attention than the earlier one.

Once the material reaches the headquarter, one dedicated team of officers and officials scans the OMR sheets and does the proof checking as well  and thereafter the merit list is prepared and put in public domain for next course of action, viz interview, skill test or selection. One may appreciate the huge cost, time and energy involved in the entire process.

Therefore, it is quite evident that though writing examination by the candidates is the central part of the entire process, other parts are equally important, if not less. This is the reason that such incidents of cheating, misrepresentation, malpractices and use of unfair means in the examinations are viewed so seriously and deserves no leniency.

Further, for the benefit of the readers, let’s observe the various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 these kinds of acts resort to. First is section 417- Punishment for Cheating. It dictates “Whoever cheats shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both”. Section 419-Punishment for cheating by Personation, which says “-whoever cheats by personation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”.

Many a times infamous Section 420-Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property is also imposed, which suggests, “Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”. Section 120B is for the accomplices and has serious punishment clauses. Besides the usual sections 188 and 511 are imposed.

Hence, it can be adduced from the above discussions that indulging in such malpractices to subvert the entire examination process is not only preposterous but also very dangerous to the well being of the candidate and his/her reputation and future prospects. Therefore, it is advised to refrain from such allurements. The need is to identify one’s potential and work hard to achieve the goals as identified by oneself.

As they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. No exam is so difficult that it cannot be cleared. The need is to plan well and study well. After all, no one wants an employee who cheats.  (Sachin Rana is an IAS officer. Views are personal)