By Debayan Roy
The Supreme Court todayasked the petitioners seeking a standard operating procedure to be adopted for the CA exams to sort out their differences with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
The Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna noted that the plea has no question of law, and was an issue of logistics.
ICAI, through Senior Advocate Ramji Srinivasan, submitted that a note has been circulated briefly answering all the points raised by the petitioners.
However, Advocate Bansuri Swaraj, appearing for the petitioners, contended that “some issues still remain” and that they too have filed a reply in response to the ICAI note.
The Bench then told the petitioner’s counsel,
“Please sort out your differences with Mr. Srinivasan. These don’t have questions of law, but are dealing with logistics. List day after tomorrow after you have discussed with Mr. Srinivasan. He is very resourceful.
The CA exams for this round are scheduled to begin on November 21.
The petitioners have claimed that with the exams scheduled to begin in less than a month, ICAI has not taken adequate steps for holding of the exams in line with health guidelines issued amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, a PIL had been moved before the Supreme Court assailing ICAI’s notification of an ‘opt out’ option for CA aspirants. The present plea says that the concerned authorities have not taken steps for ensuring the health concerns of the stakeholders.
The plea states that a significantly higher number of candidates are expected to take the exam this round, on account of the May cycle of exams standing cancelled. This fact, along with the cap of 100 persons for congregations imposed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, gives rise to the concerns of the petitioners.
The ICAI had refused to acknowledge the cap imposed on large gatherings when a query on this issue was raised by a stakeholder, the plea states.
The plea calls for uniform safety guidelines to be put in place across the country, and prays that all candidates taking the exam be provided with equal facilities.
While pointing out that the ICAI is yet to notify the safety guidelines and SOP for proper implementation of these guidelines, the plea also makes a suggestion as regards symptomatic candidates. It is suggested that isolation rooms be provided in each exam centre, and that symptomatic candidates be given an opportunity to take the exam at a later stage.
The petitioners also state that the ICAI must factor in the possibility of a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases, and prepare a mitigation plan for the same. Further, while additional exam centres are required to be set up, travel and accommodation facilities must also be provided for candidates expected to travel for the exam.
It is also noted that an option for candidates to change their exam centres within the same city is not provided as yet.
The Supreme Court had earlier observed that the ICAI should consider permitting the students to opt out of the exams till the last day, as the situation around COVID-19 is dynamic and not static.
ICAI had infromed the Supreme Court in July of its decision not to hold exams for the May 2020 exam cycle that were scheduled to be held in July-August “in the interest of the students”.
The Istitute had decided that in the interest of the candidates, it would merge the May 2020 exam attempt with November 2020 Examinations. ( Bar N Bench )