Asserting that no one involved in the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) question paper leak case would be spared, IT Minister KT Rama Rao on Saturday, 18 March, said the candidates need not pay the exam fee again.
The minister’s assertion came even as the Nampally Criminal Court handed over the custody of the nine accused to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Hyderabad police for six days.
On Friday, 17 March, the TSPSC cancelled the Group-1 preliminary exam held in October 2022. Three other exams, too, were cancelled.
The TSPSC cancelled the exams amidst protests by the Opposition parties and student groups. The alleged role of kingpin Praveen Kumar in leaking question papers prompted the commission cancel the other exams.
Nine people, including two TSPSC employees, were arrested on 13 March over their alleged involvement in the data breach, and stealing and leaking of the TSPSC’s Assistant Engineer (Civil) examination question paper.
Meanwhile, Telangana Congress President Revanth Reddy alleged on Twitter that an aspirant committed suicide after the Group-1 exam was cancelled.
SIT takes custody of accused persons
After a probe was launched on 15 March, the SIT and the cybercrime police inspected the computers of the commission staff.
They also questioned the employees of the question paper section as well as the TSPSC chairman.
According to reports, copies of 15 question papers of different examinations held since 2022 were found in the main accused’s pen drive. The finding triggered suspicion that the questions of earlier exams, too, were leaked in advance.
“We will question them for further details. We will also match their responses with the statements of the TSPSC staff,” Deputy Commissioner of Police AR Srinivas told South First.
The SIT has taken the accused into custody from the Chanchalguda Jail, where they had been lodged.
A police officer had earlier told South First that Praveen and Raja Shekhar reportedly accessed a colleague’s system to check an error, and stole the IP address, user ID and passwords to gain access to the confidential files.
“The IP address of another commission staff’s desktop computer was mapped to the accused’s (network admin Raja Shekhar) desktop around October last year,” he told South First.
How many ministers sacked in BJP-ruling states, asks KTR
The question paper leak has sparked a political slugfest in Telangana with the Opposition parties targeting the ruling BRS.
KTR reiterated on Saturday that the question paper leak was not an indication of the collapse of the TSPSC.
“It was a smooth-running institution. The leak took place because of two individuals. It is not fair to tarnish the whole institution for the crime committed by two persons,” the minister said while addressing the media at the BRKR Bhavan.
— Minister for IT, Industries, MA & UD, Telangana (@MinisterKTR) March 18, 2023
Taking exception to the Opposition demand for his resignation, KTR asked whether the ministers concerned in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Assam were sacked when question papers were leaked in those states.
“I don’t know how an IT minister could be blamed for the crime committed by two persons in a statutory institution that acts independently. Except for appointing an IAS officer, the government has no role in it (the institution),” he said.
State to provide study materials, food
The minister said that he understood the pain of the students who had taken the Group I prelims and those who had done well in the other three examinations.
But in the larger interests of the students, the government had to cancel the examinations, he said.
“The government did not want any student to carry the stain that he got through an examination whose question papers had been leaked,” he explained.
The minister said the government had also decided to start reading rooms at study circles across the state and provide lunch to the students every day.
“The government would not only provide study materials to students for the four examinations at the 24×7 reading rooms in study circles. The materials will also be made available online for anyone to access them. The students need not pay the examination fee again,” KTR said.
The minister took strong exception to the BJP describing the TSPSC issuing the job notifications as a political conspiracy. KTR said he had asked the DGP to probe the possible role of any political party as Raja Shekhar Reddy, one of the two accused, is reportedly an active BJP worker.