New Delhi: Sitting in a distant location from examination centres, a group of “solvers” hacked into computers and wrote the exam for engineering candidates, while the actual candidates scribbled on sheets, pretending to be making calculations and solving questions.
This is how the fourth session of the competitive Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), meant for admission to top engineering colleges, was allegedly manipulated in the last two weeks by a Kanpur-based private company, Affinity Education Pvt. Ltd, to facilitate admissions to a few students.
On 1 September, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case to investigate the “irregularities” in the exam, after the agency received information on the ongoing racket and booked the company’s directors, consultants, technicians and touts in the case. Eleven people have been arrested so far.
The JEE Exam is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), an autonomous testing organisation under the Ministry of Education, which has been entrusted by the Government of India to conduct free and fair examinations for admissions to premier higher education institutions.
The fourth session of JEE (Main), 2021 in Computer Based Test (CBT) mode was conducted on 26, 27 and 31 August, and 1 and 2 September at different centres in major cities across the country, and abroad.
ThePrint reached the Ministry of Education for an official comment via email but there was no response until the time of publishing this report. Asked if the results of the exams that have been carried out will be put on hold or if the exam will be conducted again, a ministry official didn’t respond.
Company assured admissions to parents, charged lakhs
According to CBI sources, directors and counselors of Affinity contacted parents of candidates appearing for JEE (Main) Exam Session 4, telling them that they could help their children clear the exam.
The parents were assured that the process of the computer-based test would be manipulated and admissions for their children would be secured, if they paid Rs 10-15 lakh, sources said.
The company’s directors Shvambhar Mani Tripathi, Siddharth Krishna, and Govind Varshneyas, along with Seema, the counselor of admission for Delhi/NCR, and Anjuman Dawoodani, counselor of admission for Maharashtra, were running the alleged racket, CBI sources said.
“The counselors of admissions were assisting the directors in soliciting and managing admission in top NITs (National Institute of Technology) and reputed engineering colleges by adopting fraudulent means,” a source said.
“The accused demanded that the parents should deposit Post Dated Cheques (PDCs) of the agreed amount and original marksheets of the candidate for Class X and Class XII as security, which they would return after receiving the agreed amount,” the source said.
Once the amount was paid by the parents, the accused collected the user ID and password of the candidates appearing for the examination and made necessary modifications for getting desired examination centres, according to the plan, the source said.
“The counselors also collected a copy of the downloaded admit card of the candidates in advance before the examination,” the source said.
Solvers hacked computers, solved questions
According to a second CBI source, the private company arranged a group of “solvers”, who, sitting in a remote location, could enter the computer terminal allotted to the candidate and write the exam for them. This was in connivance with the centre authorities.
“The solver would solve the questions sitting at a remote location, by getting access to the computer terminal allotted to the candidate at the examination by using access software. By using this, the solver was able to practically solve the paper for the candidate, sitting at a distance,” the source said.
Explaining how this was done, the source said the centre supervisor, who has access to the computer network, helped the solver get access to the system being used by the candidate by using the remote access software.
The candidates were also directed to appear as normal as possible so that nothing suspicious is recorded on the camera. They were asked to keep a hand on the mouse and solve questions on a piece of paper, the source said.
‘Our systems fully secured’
Speaking to ThePrint, NTA officials said their systems were fully secured and they are awaiting more details from CBI to take corrective measures.
“Our systems are fully secured and therefore it’s difficult to comprehend how the criminals were able to hack into the system despite all security measures. We are awaiting more details from the investigating agencies to understand what went wrong and what needs to be corrected,” said a senior NTA official who didn’t wish to be named.
The official said NTA was already using AI, video monitoring of the exam centres and third-party auditors to ensure no foul play.
NTA Director General Vineet Joshi told ThePrint, “Necessary action will be taken once we have more information on the matter.”
Another NTA official said on condition of anonymity that the agency had been keeping a “close watch on some centres”, which the agency suspected of some wrongdoing even before the CBI action.
More arrests likely
CBI sources said the accused connived with the supervisors of the JEE (Main) 2021, Session-4 Exam centres at Sonipat and made necessary arrangements for fraudulent practices.
“Candidates from Delhi and other areas of the country have utilised the fraudulent services of above mentioned persons and many candidates are in the process of utilising the fraudulent service offered by the accused for seeking admission in top NITs using unfair practices,” the second source said.
The CBI has till now arrested 11 people in connection with the case, including two directors of the company and four of its employees, assistant professors and lab technicians. More arrests are likely.
“The investigation is on. We are yet to arrest the solvers and the counselors. More arrests are likely in the coming days,” a senior CBI officer said on condition of anonymity.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)