Mumbai: The HSC book-keeping and accountancy paper was 'leaked' at least 30 minutes before the exam starts, claimed students on Monday. Screen-shots of the question paper was seen doing the rounds on a mobile networking app by 10.20am.
State board officials said the snapshots were circulated on WhatsApp after the exam had started at 11am and hence, could not be termed a leak.
Students get the papers 10 minutes before to help them read properly, a move many teachers blamed for the 'leak'.
"At around 11.26am, we received the pictures through journalists. We do not have proof that the pictures were circulated before the paper began and hence, we will treat it as a case of cheating," said Y S Chandekar, secretary, Mumbai divisional board.
The board rules prohibit students from carrying mobile phones to exam centres, but in reality, most of them bring them to classrooms and are told to switch them off and keep them in bags.
Students are not frisked. Exam coordinators said many parents insist on the phones as many students travel from far.
Over three lakh students took the exam across the state, and officials claimed the incident was limited to the Mumbai division. "We received complaints from the Mumbai division. It looks like a copying case prima facie. We are investigating. As of now, re-exam is not being discussed," said Krishnakumar Patil, secretary, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education.
Mobile phones are at the heart of this incident, and it is clear that exam centres are never sanitized of the smart devices. Students carry them, so do officials involved with uncovering the papers and handing them out.
Teachers blame the board's new policy of distributing the question paper 10 minutes prior to the exam. They say it has led to cheating in several small centres where students are not frisked for their phones.
"In the 10 minutes before the exam, some students take pictures of the question paper and send it to their senior friends, who in turn send back answers for objective type questions plus other hints," said Manoj Jariwala, honorary secretary of the Maharashtra Class Owners' Association.
Students also take advantage of the 30 minutes grace that is allowed to start the examination. "At times, some students come 10 to 15 minutes late. In this gap of about 20 to 25 minutes they get the answers from their senior friends. The new guidelines have been opposed even by many college teachers. In my opinion, students are misusing this 10 minutes. It should be stopped," he added.