New Delhi, Jun 29 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today made it clear that it will not postpone the Chartered Accountant (CA) examination scheduled to commence in July 2021, but agreed to consider plea by students seeking ‘opt out’ option, who will not be able to appear for the exams, on account of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Counsel appearing for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) submitted before the Bench that students appearing for the examination will be given an opportunity, if they face any difficulties due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
The Bench, comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose, took up three pleas seeking postponement of CA exams, scheduled to commence from July 5.
Justice Khanwilkar, while sharing his experience of fighting Novel Coronavirus, observed that recovery from the lethal infection is completely up to a person’s body.
“The after effects (of COVID-19) lasted for three weeks and even after three weeks, I was not able to work or go back to my normal routine,” revealed Justice Khanwilkar. Further, he suggested the Counsel appearing of behalf of ICAI that the matter concerned can be genuine for CA aspirants.
Senior Advocate Ramji Srinivasan appeared for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and submitted that he will prepare a brief note on the stand of ICAI after today’s submissions made by the respective counsels in regard with guidelines to be proposed for the conduction of CA examination.
The Supreme Court asked the ICAI to appoint necessary authority, which was competent to issue a certificate explaining why COVID-19 positive candidates cannot appear for the upcoming CA exams.
Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for CA candidates in one of the petitions, submitted the major issues faced by the candidates amid Novel Coronavirus. First, there is a whole new syllabus for CA exam now and it is very difficult for the students to adopt and prepare for the exam in this pandemic, not to mention about the aspirants, who have been infected with this deadly virus.
Replying to her, the Apex Court said, “Another chance will be given to such students. These students had seven years to appear for old syllabus exam, though we will give the benefit, but limited to those, who are affected by COVID-19 directly or indirectly,” said the Court.
Secondly, Meenakshi Arora submitted that the candidates who wants to appear in the exam are not willing to compromise their security as the examination centre chosen had been used for marriages and other public gathering events. The Bench observed, “RT-PCR positive report may be very difficult to get. Persons who recover may have long term problems and thus unable to appear in exams. General policy may be adopted where an authorised agency can certify that he is not able to appear in exam.”
Thirdly, the Advocate proposed that it should be mandatory for each and every person to carry their RT-PCR test including the invigilator, to which the court replied that, “these are basic precautionary procedure which will definitely be adopted by each and every person.” Further the bench proposed that, instead of RT-PCR test, a candidate can take a valid certificate from the competent authority appointed by the ICAI. As, even if a person is positive the test comes out to be negative. “Evolve a policy that one can certify why one could not appear,” said the Court to the ICAI.
Fourthly, she highlighted that the aspirants who are willing to give the exam but the centres created are far of, cannot travel. Further seeks to have opportunity to choose convenient option for opting another centre whichever is suitable to them as per travelling area. Fifthly, waiving off the article ship requirement because the aspirants have been irregular. Due to the Covid19, many could not complete the duration, which was turned down by the bench.
The Supreme Court stated that, “The scope should be broadened in terms of considering the COVID-19 infected candidates.”
The bench was considering the petitions Sathya Narayan Perumal vs Union of India (in which Sr Av Arora was appeared), Anubha Shrivastava Sahai vs Union of India and Amit Jain Vs. Union of India (in which Adv. Bansuri Swaraj appeared)
This petition was filed by 987 aspirants from 20 States and three Union Territories (UTs) through Advocate Anubha Shrivastava Sahai, the petition urged the Supreme Court to set aside the notification of ICAI dated June 5, 2021 through which the ICAI has issued the date sheet of CA Examination, scheduled to be held in the month of May 2021.
Adv Shashi Bhushan P Angolekar appearing for the petitioners sought before the court that candidates giving CA exam should be vaccinated on priority basis for their protection, which was not entertained by the bench by stating “we cannot hamper the vaccination policies given by Government.”
The plea filed by Sathya Narayan Perumal vs Union of India, inter-alia, sought the following reliefs:-
1. Quash and set aside the Exam notification issued by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, which is not having “Opt Out” option and issue new notification providing opt out option for those willing to opt out before and during exam and carry forward all the benefits.
2. Direction to ICAI to give an extra chance/extension, Opt- Out to those students who are appearing for Intermediate and Final Course examination under old syllabus.
3. Direction to the ICAI to increase the number of Examination Centres of CA Examination, May 2021 cycle, so as to provide at least one Examination Centre in every District of India and to conduct examination in a staggered manner.
4. Direction to the ICAI to grant fresh option to choose Examination Centre to each such aspirant/ student, pursuant to increase in the number of said Examination Centre, without prejudice to the Centre already opted by him/her in lieu of the Important Announcements dated 05.06.2021 which is available from 9th July 2021 till 11th July 2021.
5. Direcrion to ICAI to provide free Transportation and Free Accommodation to the desirous students/ aspirants of the captioned CA Examination, May 2021 Cycle during the period of 6th July, 2021 to 20th July, 2021 for Intermediate and final course and 24th July, 2021 onwards for Foundation course candidates near their respective Examination Centres
6. Direction to the ICAI to issue necessary guidelines to the concerned authorities to treat the e- Admit Cards issued to the students/ aspirants of the instant Examination, as E-passes enable free movement of such students in all zones, including in containment zones, during their said Examination.
7. Direction to the ICAI to provide for at least one stand-by Examination Centre in a nearby location, for those Examination Centres, which are likely to go into containment zone during the period of 6th July, 2021 to 20th July 2021 and 24th July, 2021 onwards.
8. Direction to the ICAI to conduct mandatory free COVID-19 Tests of all the students and also of the teachers, invigilators and staff deployed at the Examination Centre and also vaccinate them and start vaccination drive.
9. Direction to MHA and MoHFW to forthwith formulate and lay down separate, exclusive guidelines for conducting the said CA Examinations.
10. Direction to ICAI to postpone the instant Chartered Accountants Examination scheduled to commence from 06th July, 2021 to any subsequent period, post normalization of COVID-19 crisis and till the completion of vaccination of the students, invigilators and other staff but the said exam of May 2021 Cycle should not be taken alongwith November 2021 cycle exam. ILNS/RG/RJ