The Hari Putar Dialogues - 67
(The Hindustan Times ; New Delhi ; 20 July : A metropolitan magistrate acquitted 33 young people, including five girls, who were caught cheating in an examination, saying he did not want to ruin their future. The young people were accused of receiving answers on their mobile phones, while taking an exam at the Delhi Engineering College in 2005. The CBI had been called in by the college authorities after all the 33 candidates submitted identical papers and scored the same marks. The CBI alleged they had paid for the answers, which they received on their cell phones. Delivering judgement last Wednesday, Magistrate P.R. Sarkar, however, noted that all of them were still in their early twenties when 'their capacity for understanding is still developing'. Pointing out that they had already been debarred by Delhi University, and were enrolled in courses at other institutions, he said there was no point in ruining their lives by sending them to jail. 'I do not see any positive impact' by sentencing these youngsters,' he said.)
Putar: There is a report in The Hindustan Times about a trial court judge acquitting 33 young students from Delhi Engineering College.
Hari: What were the students accused of?
Putar: Cheating in an examination.
Hari: How was it possible for 33 students to cheat simultaneously? The examination paper must have been leaked.
Putar: Apparently the answers were sent by SMS to all these students. This means that the papers were not leaked.
Hari: How do you conclude that?
Putar: Simple. Had the papers been leaked, the students would have known the answers before hand. They were sent by SMS during the course of the examination.
Hari: It may be that one of the students typed out all the questions and sent it to someone. And then the answers were sent by SMS to all the students.
Putar: Very likely. The college called in the CBI to investigate the case.
Hari: How would they have investigated? They would have arrived on the scene much after the examination. Only at the time of evaluating the answer sheets the examiners must have noticed how the answer sheets resembled each other.
Putar: The CBI would have examined the telephone records and seen that all students had received an SMS from the same number during the course of the examination.
Hari: It could have been an SMS from a class fellow wishing them 'Good luck'. Surely the actual SMS would have been deleted.
Putar: That's a good point. But perhaps the original SMS remains somewhere in cyber space even after the sender and recipient have deleted it.
Hari: Is that possible?
Putar: I believe so. I understand that even with emails, even after you delete an email in many operating systems such as Lotus, a record remains somewhere.
Hari: So there is no real privacy.
Putar: Apparently not.
Hari: It's strange that with the advancement of technology, new ways of cheating have been found ' but also new ways of catching out someone who cheated. In my days, students would prepare cog sheets and hide them in their shirt sleeves.
Putar: According to the news report the judge did not acquit these students for lack of evidence.
Hari: What was his reason?
Putar: He did not want to spoil their careers.
Hari: That may have been a reason for not sentencing them to jail but not for acquitting them.
Putar: That's true.
Hari: It's true though that the students have suffered enough.
Putar: Exactly. They had been debarred by Delhi University and are now studying in other institutions.
Hari: They probably lost a couple of academic years as well.
Putar: The judge blamed the parents for failing to instil moral values.
Hari: Can the parents be blamed? I wonder. So many students cheating. It's a sign of the changing times, I guess.
Putar: If it hadn't been so many students, they probably wouldn't have been caught.
Hari: Earlier, it would only be a handful of students in class who would cheat. Now with such a large number of students it seems that more people are willing to cheat. The pressures to perform well are much higher on students these days.
Putar: Because doing well in examinations can lead to a good job, which means a good salary, better living and so on and forth. The stakes are higher than ever before. Tell me something, papaji.
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: According to the news report five girls were among the 33 students who were caught cheating. Engineering used to be a male preserve, but now girls also want to be engineers.
Hari: Not only that. Nowadays quite often girls are performing better at the examinations as compared with the boys.
Putar: Girls don't want to be left behind in any way.
Putar: Including in cheating?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.