The never-ending saga of exam paper leaks

An incident of paper leak during a government recruitment examination triggered a massive controversy in Gujarat in December 2020. This was the ninth such incident in the state since 2014. But Gujarat is not alone, as such cases have sprung up in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra as well. Dibyajyoti Sarma reports

22 Feb 2022 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

Press shutdown, exams cancelled due to paper leaks - the malady that pervades

Paper leak of head clerk exams
On 12 December, the Gujarat Subordinate Services Selection Board (GSSSB) conducted a written exam for the recruitment of 186 head clerks at different centres across the state. As many as 88,000 aspirants appeared for the test. An FIR was lodged by the police after the state government initially dismissed allegations of the paper’s leak from a centre in north Gujarat. On 17 December, the Gujarat police arrested six out of the 10 persons named in the FIR. 

Immediately after the exam began, the opposition parties had claimed that the question paper was leaked prior to the exam, and the question and answer sheets were exchanged through WhatsApp.

According to the police, the accused managed to acquire the question paper before the exam, after which they sold it to the candidates for nearly Rs 15 lakhs. They also helped them in solving the paper at various locations a day before the exam. The person, who acquired the paper, was identified as Jayesh Patel. At least 16 candidates, including Dhruv Barot, received the question paper from the accused a day before the exam.

Those 16 candidates were divided into three different groups and were taken to three different locations near Prantij on 11 December to solve the question paper. On the day of the exam, the accused persons arranged transportation to drop these candidates to their respective exam centres.

Later, on 20 December, Gandhinagar police arrested three more persons, including the head of a printing press, in Ahmedabad, identified as Kishor Acharya. According to the police, there was a contract between the private printing press and GSSSB to print the question papers for the recruitment examinations. Acharya had sold the paper for Rs 9 lakh.

The incident came to light when Yuvrajsinh Jadeja, vice-president of Gujarat Aam Aadmi Party’s youth wing, on 13 December alleged that he had evidence that the question paper was leaked a night before the exam and was sold at the rate of Rs 6 lakhs to Rs 12 lakhs across the state. On 16 December, Jadeja handed over the evidence to GSSSB chairman Asit Vora.

Exam paper contracts go to the printer who quotes the lowest cost (L1). Often, this is a recipe for disaster

Paper leak at Saurashtra University 
On 24 December, hours after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers complained that the question paper for the Semester-III economics examination for BCom students under Saurashtra University was leaked, the university declared the examination held on 23 December void.

The university said Surya Offset, the printing press, which is under police lens for alleged leak of head clerk recruitment examination papers, had also printed the economics question papers, but added it was not certain as yet as to where the question paper had been leaked from.

The police said the paper had started circulating on WhatsApp groups around an hour before the scheduled start of the examination, thus proving that the paper was indeed leaked. 

Incidentally, the question papers for the examination were printed by Surya Offset, a Sanand-based printing press. According to the university sources, Surya Offset was awarded the contract for printing after it emerged as the L1 (the
one which has quoted the lowest cost) in tendering. At this stage, it is not clear as to where the question paper was leaked from. 

Major paper leaks in Gujarat since 2014

  • 2014: GPSC chief officer
  • 2015: Talati exam
  • 2016: Talati Surendranagar and Gandhinagar exams
  • 2018: Teachers Aptitude Test
  • 2018: Mukhya Sevika
  • 2018: Nayab Chitnis
  • 2018: Dec Lok Rakshak Dal
  • 2019: Non-Sachivalaya clerks
  • 2021: Head clerk

TET paper leak case
On 17 December 2020, Pune City Police arrested Maharashtra State Examination Council Commissioner Tukaram Supe in connection with Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) paper leak case. The Maharashtra government cancelled all the tests after irregularities in the Maharashtra Housing and Regional Development Authority (MHADA) exams came to light.

The police had earlier arrested six people in the matter, including Pritish Deshmukh, director of GA Software Technologies, which was given the contract of conducting recruitment exams for various departments.

During the investigation of Deshmukh’s house, the police found TET admit cards. Also, hall tickets of some ineligible students were seized. Therefore, there was a suspicion of malpractice in the TET examination and the investigation was initiated accordingly. 

Paper leak in Haryana
The UGC NET examination for Hindi was on 26 December 2020. The next day, it was reported that the paper had been leaked. Acting on the report, the Jind police arrested a few people in Haryana. The leaked question paper was found on the phones of the persons arrested. The police informed that about six examination centres were involved in the entire incident. 

Earlier, as many as 36 were arrested in the Haryana police constable paper leak case. The crime investigation agency of the Kaithal police arrested the key accused on 10 September. Muzaffar Ahmed had played a key role in providing question papers and answer keys to the other accused. Police had announced a cash reward of Rs 2 lakh for any information on Ahmed.

Among others, the police also arrested two employees associated with a Jammu-based examination agency, which had been given the contract to prepare question papers for the written exam. They had leaked the questions and answer key of the male constables’ recruitment exam conducted by the Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC).

Earlier, on August 24, the Haryana government introduced a bill in the Assembly, proposing jail term up to 10 years for offences related to paper leak while discussing the Haryana Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2021. The Bill, tabled by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, also proposes attachment of property of the convicted persons for the recovery of fine.

As per its provisions, if any person in conspiracy with the examination authority or otherwise indulges or attempts to indulge in unfair means or contravenes any of the provision of the Act, she/he shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term ranging from seven to 10 years and a fine not less than Rs 10 lakh.

The opposition had alleged that there have been 28 incidents of paper leak in the state.

Top Tips for print firms

  • Make sure your employment contracts are up to the job.Ensuring that employment contracts contain a clause covering confidentiality agreements and a clause that outlines that you, the employer, own the IP created in the course of an employee’s work is crucial
  • Register trademarks and domain names in your own name. Do not rely on an employee to register these with their own money and in their own name, no matter how trustworthy they may be. Any conflict over these matters can be resolved but this can be expensive and troublesome
  • Ensure contractors understand your policy in regards to your IP. Be aware that when you take on a contractor, they are not bound by the same employee/employer position when it comes to IP and ensure they provide written confirmation that any IP resulting from their work is retained by your company
  • Remember to protect your trademarks and copyright. Register trademarks with the Intellectual Property Office and guard copyright by developing good internal records so you can prove the origins of significant pieces of content

Arrest of fake candidates 
On 27 December, police in Dibiyapur, UP, arrested 11 people, who were caught writing various exams as proxy candidates. Pawan Porwal of Noida, who runs a marketing company called Digital India, had been running the gang for three years. He, along with the others, used to arrange ‘solvers’ after making a deal for Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh. 

Need for enforceable restrictions 
Print is all about dissemination of information. And printers have always handled sensitive information. As has been pointed out above, most instances of ‘leaks’ are caused by insiders. It is imperative to have enforceable restrictions, such as confidentiality obligations and non-compete and non-solicitation of business clauses in employment contracts; and again, taking a hard line with anyone who cheats to deter others. 

PrintWeek’s Point of View
In most of these instances, the blame has been fixed on a print firm. So how do you prevent this happening in your premise?

For starters, the average mid-sized print firm CEO has to realise how important IP is. Most realise it only when they run into trouble. 

When PrintWeek spoke to a leading digital print firm in Okhla, he said, “Most print businesses are of a modest size and spend their time dealing with customers and day-to-day issues of sales, production and payments.” This is true.
Therefore, it is important to create greater awareness within the company and perhaps implement a formal company policy. Certainly, the greater the awareness, the better the protection.

When it comes to copyright and formal-contracts, prevention really is the best cure.

(Courtesy: Agency inputs)