Telangana education department has directed district examiners to take stringent measures, including sending students to jail, to curb mass copying in examinations.
Students caught cheating in the matric exams in Telangana could land behind bars with the state’s education department deciding to enforce a stringent law that has provisions for jail terms up to seven years, officials said on Wednesday.
Besides, schools found encouraging mass copying could have their affiliation to the state board withdrawn and officials jailed.
An estimated 5.60 lakh students, in over 2,500 centres across the state, will write the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations starting March 15.
The directorate of school education, in recent guidelines, asked all district examiners, who will supervise the upcoming examinations, to enforce the Andhra Pradesh Education Act 1982 and the Andhra Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Malpractices and Unfair Means) Act, 1997.
The laws, enacted before bifurcation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, have provisions for jail term ranging from three to seven years along with fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh for indulging in malpractices in examinations individually or collectively.
Activists and lawyers, however, criticised the government move.
Andhra Pradesh child rights association president P Achyuta Rao said filing of criminal cases against students indulging in mass copying and prosecuting them would be a clear violation of the Juvenile Justice Act.
“The act does not permit penal action against children. Though mass copying is a criminal offence as per the malpractices act, it does not apply to students below 16 years of age. They cannot be sent even to juvenile homes as they are not committing a serious crime like theft, rape or murder that harms others,” he said.
Supreme Court advocate Sravan Kumar, who deals with education rights, also said it would not be proper to prosecute students and send them to jails if they indulge in copying.
“They are all minors and sensitive. Instead of subjecting them to harassment, the officials should educate them and focus on improving the quality of education in schools,” he observed.
Director of school education G Kishan said they would invoke the jail provision against erring students only in “extreme cases.”
“If a student is caught cheating in the examination, we don’t intend to send him or her to jail though we can do so as per the existing law.
However, if the students resort to combined malpractices (mass cheating), then we shall invoke the provisions of the Act,” he said.
“Generally, whenever students are caught indulging in copying, they are debarred from writing further examinations or are rusticated in serious cases. But so far we have not prosecuted the students or filed cases against them,” Kishan added.
Kishan said more than the students, the government would focus on the managements of various schools found encouraging mass copying and other kinds of malpractices in board examinations so that they could increase the pass percentage of their students and use the result to advertise the success of the institution.
“We are going to be very strict against such school managements. Besides taking punitive action against the school authorities, we will also cancel their recognition,” he said.
The school education department has also launched an extensive campaign in all schools highlighting its latest decision to file criminal cases against students and school managements indulging in malpractices.
“This would be a deterrent to all those resorting to malpractices,” the official said.
The decision of the Telangana government follows a direction given by the Hyderabad high court to strictly curb malpractices in school examinations.
Acting on a public interest litigation, a two-judge bench of the high court expressed disappointment over the steps taken by the government to effectively prevent malpractices in examinations.
The high court directed that the government install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the examination halls so as to keep a vigil on the students.
“Out of nearly 2,500 examination centres, we have installed CCTV cameras in 400 centres till date. We told the court that we don’t have funds to immediately install CCTV cameras in the remaining centres,” Kishan said. #KhabarLive