Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
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[CA Exams]: ICAI to file its response before Supreme Court by Monday on plea challenging "opt-out" option for current exam cycle

The notification issued by ICAI for the May 2020 exam cycle gave an option to the aspirants to opt out of the exam due to COVID-19 pandemic and this notification was challenged as being arbitrary and discriminatory.

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on a plea that challenged the Institute's notification giving an "opt-out" option to aspirants due to COVID-19. The response is to be filed before Monday. (Anubha Shrivastava Sahai vs ICAI)

The Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari took up the PIL filed by the President of the “India Wide Parents Association”, Anubha Shrivastatva Sahai via video conferencing today.

This PIL, among other things, seeks quashing of the notification issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) allowing Chartered Accountant (CA) aspirants to "opt-out" of CA exams this year due to COVID-19 and related issues.

The CA exams for the exam cycle of May 2020 are scheduled to be held between July 29 and August 16. In relation to these exams, the ICAI had issued notifications on June 15 and June 20 notifying the "opt-out" option, which the petitioner contends is a highly discriminatory and arbitrary move.

Senior Advocate Ramji Srinivasan representing ICAI today informed the Court that the petitioner has proceeded with a false assumption and added further that the notification causes no prejudice against any student.

The Court sought ICAI's response on this plea in a sworn affidavit and posted the matter for Monday, June 29.

The Court was told of the urgency involved in the matter given that the deadline to exercise the "op-out" option expires tomorrow. The Court, however, said:

If we decide in your (petitioner) favour, we can issue directions.
Supreme Court

In the plea, the petitioner urges the Court to quash the notifications regarding the opt-out option on the grounds that the same is in violation of the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The exercise of this option would lead to the underprivileged and unfortunate aspirants living in remote areas or in red zones and containment zones amid COVID-19 pandemic to lose out on a precious year. On the other hand, those aspirants who have the means to access exam centres and who are fortunate to live in big cities as well as in green zones will have the benefit of attending the exam, the plea says.

"...Respondent No.1 ICAI has notified that for the students who choose OPT-OUT option, this attempt (May 2020) will be treated as cancelled / not counted. Thus, such student will be deprived of the May, 2020, attempt, as compared to other group of students, who choose OPT-IN option," the plea adds.

Further, the petition also seeks directions from the Supreme Court for the ICAI to notify more exam centres, at least one in each district, to facilitate aspirants to write their CA exams. The petition also seeks a direction for the Institute to provide free accommodation and free transport for those students who do not live in the proximity of the exam centres.

Additionally, keeping in view the requirement of e-passes to undertake long journeys, the petitioner has prayed for directions to be given to authorities to treat CA exam e-admit card as a valid e-pass for students to commute.

Alternatively, as a last resort, prayer has been made to direct ICAI to postpone these exams to be held at a time went he crisis has been overcome and the situation has been normalised.

This petitioner was represented by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava and ICAI was represented by Senior Advocate Ramji Srinavasan instructed by Advocate Pramod Dayal.

Read Order:

Anubha Shrivastava Sahai vs ICAI - 26.06.2020.pdf
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