Karnataka PSI exam scam: CID arrests first-rank winner

The first rank winner, Kushal Kumar J, who obtained 167.75 marks out of 200 – 30.5 in the written part and 137.25 for the objective part – was arrested after investigations revealed that his optical mark recognition (OMR) answer sheet for the objective part of the exam had been tampered, according to the complaint filed by the CID against the candidate.

The CID has registered as many as five new FIRS in different police stations in Bengaluru and has arrested as many as candidates in the last week for seven involvement in the PSI exam fraud following new forensic evidence of tampering in answer sheets.

The new FIRs and arrests have occurred on the basis of a forensic analysis report dated May 24 received by the CID police from the state forensic science laboratory regarding the tampering of the OMR sheets used by candidates to mark answers in the objective portion of the exam which carried a total of 100 questions for 150 marks.

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Among the candidates named in the new FIRs, Darshan Gowda V obtained 141 marks out of 150 in the objective portion, the highest for all candidates. The candidate obtained one of the lowest marks in the essay portion with 19 marks but finished fifth overall among the 545 candidates selected through the exam.

Earlier, based on a forensic report dated April 28, 2022, on the analysis of OMR sheets of 168 candidates who wrote the exam in Bengaluru on October 3, 2021, the CID had accused 22 candidates of cheating, including seven of the top 10 rankers .

The exam scam is alleged to have occurred at multiple levels with the connivance of officials of the Karnataka police recruitment cell. In Kalaburagi, the exam fraud occurred after exam centers were rigged by middlemen to facilitate the provision of answers (via Bluetooth devices) to candidates with the cooperation of invigilators and exam officials.

In Bengaluru, candidates wrote the exams at multiple centers and their OMR sheets were modified at the police recruitment cell, the CID investigations have found. Candidates paid between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 80 lakh to facilitate their selection to be police sub-inspectors, the CID probe has found.

As many as 40 candidates who wrote the exam and were selected – from a field of 54,287 candidates – have been accused of fraud in the recruitment exam and as many as 35 have been arrested so far.

The candidates who have already been named as accused in the exam scam include Shivaraja G (third rank), Jagrut S (fourth rank), Darshan Gowda V, Praveen Kumar HR, Raghuveer HU, Yashwanth Gowda H, Narayana CM, and Nageshgowda CS ( fifth to 10th rank) as well as the first rank winner among women candidates, Rachana H.

According to the cases registered by the police, the forensic analysis of the OMR sheets of the candidates named in the cases had revealed vast differences between the original OMR sheets dispatched to the police recruitment cell and the carbon copies with candidates.

The analysis of the OMR sheets had revealed that the accused candidates answered very few questions themselves during the exam and left the majority of blank answers and these were allegedly filled up later by others as part of a larger conspiracy involving middlemen and police recruitment officials, according to to the new cases registered by the CID.

The forensic analysis also revealed that changes had been made to the responses entered in the original OMR sheets on the number of questions answered by a candidate. The changes were in variance with the responses reflected in the carbon copies of OMR sheets that were retained by the candidates after the exam.

The CID has arrested Shantakumar, a deputy superintendent of police in the police recruitment cell when the scam occurred, for the exam fraud. The CID has also questioned Additional Director General of Police in Karnataka Amrit Paul over the scam.

“All the OMR sheets along with the carbon copy received from the candidates have been sent to the FSL for examination. Action is being taken against the candidates involved in such malpractice as and when evidence is collected,” the CID said in an official note last month.

A total of 545 candidates were selected in January 2022 from a group of 54,287 candidates who wrote the written exam in October 2021 (from a total of 1.5 lakh aspirants). Several of the candidates who are arrested and middlemen involved in the crime are politically connected to the three main political parties in Karnataka – the ruling BJP, Congress, and JDS.

A sessions court in Bengaluru rejected the bail pleas of several arrested candidates last week by stating that the scam affects the moral fiber of society. “It is a case of a recruitment scam by manipulating the OMR sheets to deprive deserving candidates who have honestly worked hard for the examination for selection. Therefore, it is a socio-economic offence, which affects the moral fibre of the society,” a sessions court in Bengaluru ruled while rejecting the bail of several persons accused in the exam scam.

The sessions court cited a 2017 judgment by the Supreme Court in the State of Bihar vs Amith Kumar alias Bacha Rai case to turn down the bail pleas. “We are also conscious that if undeserving candidates are allowed to top exams by corrupt means, not only will the society be deprived of deserving candidates, but it will be unfair for those students who have honestly worked hard for one whole year and are ultimately disentitled to a good rank by fraudulent practices prevalent in those examinations,” the court said quoting the Supreme Court order.

“Usually, a socio-economic offence has deep-rooted conspiracies affecting the moral fiber of society and causing irreparable harm, it needs to be considered seriously,” the Supreme Court had said.

The scam surfaced after it was found that one of the selected candidates at Kalaburagi who obtained 121 marks in the exam had only answered questions for 31.5 marks out of a total of 150 marks in the objective section.

Many candidates who were not selected approached the government after the news of the recruitment of a candidate who answered only 21 questions spread on social media.

The Karnataka government annulled the results of the PSI recruitment exam last month after the CID reported large-scale rigging of the exam on the basis of its investigations that began in April.

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