ICAI logo, Supreme Court
ICAI logo, Supreme Court
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PIL in Supreme Court challenges ICAI notification concerning "opt-out" option for CA exams due to COVID-19 as arbitrary and discriminatory

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, the plea says.

Shruti Mahajan

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking 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 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.

The PIL has been filed by the President of the “India Wide Parents Association”, Anubha Shrivastatva Sahai. 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.

On this ground that the notification is termed discriminatory and sought to be quashed.

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.

About 4.67 lakh students, according to the petitioner, are slated to write the CA exams in this exam cycle. As against this number, there are only 259 exam centres in the country and 5 overseas.

About 70 per cent of the total number of districts in India do not have CA exam centres, the plea says, pointing out that aspirants from these areas would be at a loss given the unavailability of commuting facilities. These students will be put in immense risk of the pandemic should they undertake to take up the long journey to their exam centres, the PIL highlights.

As such, the petitioner has sought that the ICAI be directed to increase the number of exam centres and to ensure that at least one centre per district is set up. 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 centre.

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. Additionally, the petition states,

"The Petitioner is further seeking formulation and implementation of specific MHA guidelines for CA Examinations, free medical treatment to students infected during examination, amongst various other welfare measures."

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 petition has been filed through Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava.

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