The Class 12 English exam of the Uttar Pradesh school board was cancelled in 24 districts on Wednesday after the question paper was leaked, prompting Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to order invoking the stringent National Security Act in the case.
The Ballia police has arrested an official and 16 others, a senior official said. The official has also been suspended.
The CM also ordered the Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh police to probe the case. An official has also been suspended. The English paper cancelled in 24 districts will now be held on April 13, an official statement said in Lucknow.
Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said the Ballia DM and SP got information on Wednesday morning that the second shift paper has been leaked.
The exam was to be held at 2 pm.
"It appears the English question paper of Class 12 was leaked in Ballia. The matter is being looked into and strict action will be taken against the guilty," UP Secondary Education Minister Gulab Devi said.
Asked why the exam was cancelled in only 24 districts, she said it was done in only those districts where the leaked paper was distributed.
"The English paper with series 316 ED and 316 EI was leaked before the exam that was to begin at 2 pm. The incident was treated with seriousness by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. DIoS (District Inspector of Schools) of Ballia Brajesh Kumar Mishra has been suspended and the STF has been asked to investigate the matter," the statement said.
It said the stringent National Security Act will be slapped against those found involved in the incident.
The NSA allows preventive detention for months if the authorities feel that someone is a threat to national security or law and order.
The exam in 24 districts will be held on April 13 in the first shift between 8 am and 11.15 am.
The state government has also launched helplines and asked students to reach out to the UP board in case of any difficulty.
Additional Chief Secretary, Information Department, Navneet Sehgal, told PTI that the CM's NSA order was in line with the state government's warning before the start of the board exams that the stringent law will be imposed if anyone is found involved in a question paper leak.
Ballia SP R K Nayyar said 11 people, including some teachers, have been detained for questioning.
The question paper was found in mobile phones of the some of the detained people, he said.
"The suspects were detained by STF teams. They are being questioned," he said.
The English exam was cancelled in Agra, Mainpuri, Mathura, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Bagpat, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Unnao, Sitapur, Lalitpur, Mahoba, Jalaun, Chitrakoot, Ambedkarnagar, Pratapgarh, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Ballia, Varanasi, Kanpur Dehat, Etah and Shamli districts.
With the incident occurring on the heels of the start of the second innings of the Adityanath government, the Opposition seized the opportunity to hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party regime.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav accused the Adityanath government of not wanting the exam to be completed as it "failed in providing employment".
"The business of paper leak continues even in the second term of the BJP government. The youth are saying the government doesn't want any exam to be completed because it has failed in providing employment," Yadav tweeted.
"The BJP government should run paper bulldozers on paper mafia, at least for show," said Yadav, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly.
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati tweeted, "After the paper leak, the examination had to be cancelled in 24 districts, including Gorakhpur and Varanasi. Is it right to play with the lives of children again and again?"
"Due to frequent paper leaks in UP, it seems the copying mafia is out of the grip of the government but who is the real culprit," she asked demanding strict action against the culprits.