Indian court bars hundreds of student doctors over cheating on exams

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's highest court Monday (Feb 13) barred hundreds of students from becoming doctors after they were caught paying bribes and cheating on exams to gain admission into prestigious medical schools.

Around 630 students from central Madhya Pradesh state were found to have copied answers, had proxies sit their exams or just outright paid to gain entry to selective medical colleges between 2008 and 2013.

An investigation into the so-called "Vyapam scandal" - named after the state's admissions board - recommended the students be struck from the medical fraternity, but they appealed that ruling in court.

The Supreme Court first delivered a split verdict, with one judge suggesting the students serve time in the army as punishment.

But a new bench empanelled to hear the case rejected their appeals, ruling they obtained their admissions illegally and were therefore ineligible to hold degrees or practice medicine.

Paying bribes to secure an exam paper early or get bumped up the admissions ladder is not uncommon in India, but the brazen nature of this scam caused particular outrage.

Students were found to have manipulated their photographs so proxies could sit their exams, with officials paid kickbacks to keep quiet.

More than 2000 people linked to the scandal have been arrested since 2013 as a result of state investigations.

Federal investigators joined the probe two years later after a local TV journalist covering the lucrative scheme mysteriously wound up dead.

Corruption is rife across India, and paying to secure government jobs or fake credentials is not uncommon.