On Monday, 13th July 2020, the counsel for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) informed the Supreme Court of India that the Chartered Accountancy examinations will be postponed to November 2020, in a plea challenging “opt-out scheme” and seeking more centers for the CA exam.
The submission comes at the heels of a press release issued by ICAI, which reported that the exams scheduled to begin on 29 July will now be merged with the November exams following the nationwide lockdown due to COVID- 19 pandemic. ICAI stated, “On a review of above developments and to ensure the interest of its students and their well-being, the Institute has decided to cancel May 2020 Examinations and merge the May 2020 attempt with November 2020 Examinations, with a due carryover of all benefits already available to students including the fee paid and exemptions.”
A three-judge bench comprising of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna heard the matter. Previously, the Court had argued for the flexibility of the opt-out scheme and noted that the pandemic scenario was not static, but dynamic. The Bench also informed Senior Advocate Ramji Srinivasan, appearing on behalf of ICAI, that the option of changing one's examination center had to remain accessible to all, and that, as a professional body, ICAI had a duty to take care of its students.
The plea, filed on behalf of the India Wide Parents Association by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, challenged the June 15 notification issued by ICAI, which stated that students could benefit from an "opt-out" option, as per which their attempt would be treated as canceled and would be carried forward to the examinations scheduled for November 2020. The deadline for the same was 30th June 2020. The petitioner argued that the scheme was highly discriminatory and arbitrary because it did not take into account students living in remote areas or containment zones who would be forced to opt-out because of the restrictions imposed, as opposed to their counterparts living in urban areas.
The disadvantaged students would, therefore, lose their “one precious attempt” to take the examination. The plea further prayed for free transportation and free accommodation for those students who were not in close proximity to their respective examination centers in order to protect them from “unnecessary harassment”. It also asked for e-Admit Cards to be issued to captioned students as e- passes for free movement of students living in containment / red zones during the examinations. However, this was rejected by the Court.
The official notice further read, “The students who have made an application for May 2020 Examinations will have an option to change the group(s) of their appearance and center of Examinations at the time of making a fresh application for November 2020 Examinations, which, subject to conditions prevailing at the relevant time, will start from 1st November 2020. It is again clarified that in this scheme, the students will be free to exercise the options afresh for the groups that they intend to appear in the November 2020 examinations.”