40 Karnataka officials suspended for re-exam paper leak

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Bengaluru, March 31 (IANS) At least 40 officials of Karnataka pre-university board were suspended on Thursday following the leak of the chemistry question paper of the second year pre-university course (PUC) re-exam earlier in the day.

“I have suspended 40 officials of the PU examination division and ordered an inquiry into the leak of the chemistry question paper for the re-exam that was re-scheduled today (Thursday) but cancelled,” Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar told reporters here.

The re-exam in chemistry will be held on April 12 across the state.

The cancellation and suspension came amid massive protests by hundreds of angry students and worried parents at the board office in the city and in many districts across the state.

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In the state legislature, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) lawmakers sought Ratnakar’s resignation for the question paper leak just 10 days after a paper in the same subject (chemistry) got leaked and its exam held on March 21 was cancelled.

The lawmakers of the assembly and council, attending the last day of the 14-day budget session, held a protest demo at the chief minister’s office in Vidhan Soudha (state secretariat) where the legislature is also located.

A rattled Chief Minister Siddaramaiah assured the opposition members of taking stringent action against the officials but rejected seeking Ratnakar’s resignation.

Earlier in the day, PU board director Pallavi Akruthi cancelled the re-exam on a tip-off from the state police crime investigation department (CID) sleuths that the question paper was being circulated in Bengaluru and Tumukuru in the wee hours.

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Tumakuru is about 70 km from Bengaluru.

The CID is already investigating the paper leak on March 21.

“We have cancelled the three-hour re-exam that was to be held from 9.30 a.m. in all the 30 districts across the state and directed the in-charge of the centres to convey to the students that it (re-exam) will be held on April 12,” Akruthi told reporters later.

The education minister has set up a three-member committee to oversee the re-exam on April 12 and ensure that the question paper, to be set afresh, is not leaked again.

The committee will be headed by state transport secretary Rame Gowda, who was PU board director in 2013, with Akruthi and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan joint director P.C. Jaffer as the two members.

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The re-exam was re-scheduled to Thursday from Tuesday (March 29) after the exam in the subject (chemistry) was cancelled on March 21 following reports that its question paper got circulated in 2-3 districts on Whatsapp through smartphones.

At least 1.74 lakh students were to write the re-exam in the science subject for the PUC certificate, which is equivalent to 12th standard or second year intermediate course in other states.

Protests also erupted in Dharward, Hubbali, Mysuru, Chitradurga, Bagalkot and other districts across the state, with hundreds of science students staging demos against the question paper leak for the second time.

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