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NET Paper Leak: CBI Registers Case, Invokes IPC Sections on Cheating, Criminal Conspiracy

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said yesterday the question paper for the exam was leaked on the dark net and that he took moral responsibility for the incident.
Photo: X/@CBIHeadquarters.

New Delhi: Invoking sections 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with cheating and criminal conspiracy respectively, the CBI registered a case against unknown persons in the National Eligibility Test (NET) leak case on Thursday (June 20), The Hindu reported.

After receiving inputs from cybercrime officials that the integrity of the exam’s June 18 edition may have been compromised, the education ministry retroactively cancelled the exam on Wednesday.

It said the CBI would investigate the breach in the exam’s integrity.

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said yesterday the question paper for the exam, which is used to recruit assistant professors and junior research scholars, was leaked on the dark net, a term that refers to networks that can only be accessed with special software.

He also said the leak represented an “institutional failure” on part of the National Testing Agency – which conducted the test – adding that the government would form a reform committee and ‘fix responsibility’.

Some students who took the exam told The Wire they were disappointed by the leak and cancellation, saying they had travelled long distances to be at an exam centre or had to write the exam in heatwave conditions.

“They are playing with us and our future. There has been no compensation offered to us. We come from poor families, we travel as far as 300 kilometres just one way to go and give the exam, stay at hotels in Guwahati which do not cost less than Rs 1,000, and then return,” Ravikant Verma, one NET aspirant, said.

Many student groups have also staged protests against the exam’s cancellation, while opposition parties have hit out at the government, accusing it of being unable to stop paper leaks.

“It was being said Prime Minister Modi stopped the Ukraine-Russia War and the Israel-Gaza war, but he is either not able to stop exam paper leaks or doesn’t want to,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said.

The NET’s cancellation came on the heels of allegations of irregularities in the NEET-UG exam, which Pradhan also addressed in his press conference yesterday, saying he took moral responsibility for them and that those involved would not be spared.

Police from Bihar’s economic offences unit are investigating allegations of a paper leak that took place in the state. Thirteen people, including four NEET-UG aspirants, have been arrested so far, media reports cited authorities as saying.

The day the education ministry cancelled the NET, it said it had asked the economic offences unit for a detailed report from their probe.

An apparent confessional statement made by one aspirant to the police appeared in the media yesterday, where is cited as saying his uncle leaked the exam’s question paper to him.

Other concerns around the exam, which is used to select students into government medical colleges, include the issuing of grace marks to some students, the inflation of scores and an unusually high number of students who secured full marks in the test.

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