IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

WRIT PETITION (C) NO.640/2021
ANUBHA SHRIVASTAVA SAHAI VS. UNION OF INDIA & ANR.

BRIEF NOTE ON BEHALF OF
THE INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS OF INDIA
ON THE ISSUES RAISED IN THE WRIT PETITION

1. ICAI has a statutory duty to hold Professional Examinations

1.1 Under Section 15(2)(b) of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, the ICAI has a statutory duty to hold the examinations. For the benefit of around 3.74 lakh candidates, the ICAI is trying to ensure that the examinations are held in July, 2021 with all mandated Covid-19 safety protocols in place.

1.2 The Chartered Accountants exams are professional examinations and ought not to be equated with CBSE or other State Board examinations for Classes X or XII. It is in the interest of the candidates aspiring to become Chartered Accountants, start their professional lives and earn livelihoods, that the examinations be held. The ICAI has no vested interest in holding or not holding the examinations. The only interest of the ICAI is to safeguard the interest of the aspiring Chartered Accountants, even while ensuring that the exams are held at the most appropriate and conducive time.

2. Most conducive time to hold examinations is now

2.1 The Covid-19 spread is now at a substantially low level, therefore this is the opportune moment to offer the aspiring Chartered Accountants to further their professional careers. As on date, the number of Covid-19 cases are comparatively low and thus it would be in the best interests of the candidates if the examinations are held as per the schedule and not cancelled or postponed.

2.2 Whenever the risk has been minimum, this Hon’ble Court has been pleased to allow examinations to be held, case in example being Class XII exams for Kerala and Bihar, which were held in April, 2021 and February, 2021.

2.3 Further, the 3rd wave of Covid-19 cases is expected only by September-October. The Institute of Company Secretaries of India and the Institute of Cost Accountants of India are scheduled to hold examinations in August-September, 2021. Many candidates appear for 2 or more of these exams, hence the three Institutes hold the exams in a manner that the same do not overlap. Therefore, since covid is dynamic in nature, the ICAI has got this very narrow window to hold the exams in July, 2021.

2.4 The CA Exams are normally scheduled in May, but owing to the high number of cases at that time, the ICAI took a considered view to postpone the same, and after evaluating all factors, has now decided to hold the exams in July, 2021 when the number of Covid-19 cases is comparatively low.

3. Present Covid-19 situation is similar to when this Hon’ble Court allowed ICAI to hold examinations in November, 2020

3.1. Even for the November, 2020 cycle of the CA Exams, this Hon’ble Court had placed its faith in ICAI and allowed it to hold the exams. A copy of Order dated 04.11.2020 of this Hon’ble Court in WP (C) No.1193 of 2020 is ANNEXURE ‘A’ (Pgs.5 to 6).

3.2. When this Hon’ble Court allowed the ICAI to hold the exams in November, 2020, the average number of new Covid-19 cases each day were about 45,000. Even as on date, the average number of new cases is around 48,000 and declining each day. As such, it is the most conducive time to hold the exams on the dates already announced by ICAI.

4. Candidates are eager to appear in the examinations

4.1. Out of 3,74,230 candidates, as on 27.06.2021, more than 2,82,000 candidates have downloaded their admit cards, thus showing their eagerness to appear in the examinations. It is understandable that some of the candidates would have inhibitions in appearing for the exams, but that cannot be allowed to jeopardize the aspirations of a majority of the candidates.

5. No reason to believe that ICAI will not take adequate precautions

5.1. After meticulous planning, the ICAI has decided to hold the exams, notifying the Covid-19 appropriate Guidelines for Examination Centres, Examination Functionaries and Candidates (copy of the same is ANNEXURE ‘B’ (Pgs. 7 to 13), which are in conformity with the Government of India guidelines. There is no reason to believe that a responsible Institute like the ICAI would not take all possible safety precautions for conduct of the examinations.

6. The Writ Petitions do not appear to be bonafide

6.1. The conduct of the Petitioners in various Writ Petitions before this Hon’ble Court also does not appear to be bonafide:

  • WP (C) No.640/2021 was filed on 09.06.2021 and registered on 11.06.2021; and
  • WP (C) No.650/2021 and WP (C) No.654/2021 were filed on 14.06.2021 and registered on 15.06.2021.

6.2. However, inspite of the fact that exams are scheduled to commence from 05.07.2021, it appears that no attempt was made to get the Writ Petitions listed before the Hon’ble Court, even when the Hon’ble Court was hearing the cases regarding CBSE / State Board Class XII exams.

6.3. The Petitioners have allowed the hearing to take place only at the last moment, with just one week to go before the scheduled date of commencement of exams. The same appears to be motivated and designed to disrupt the large scale of exams, for which all preparations have been done after meticulous planning. The holding of exams involves thousands of teachers, invigilators and other staff.

7. Submissions on the issues raised in the Writ Petition:

S.No. Issue raised ICAI’s Submissions
1. Number of examination centres be increased
  • Average number of examinees in an examination room is 12 – and in any case note more than 50% of the capacity of the room
  • Total number of examination rooms:
    10,820
  • Total number of Examinees: 3,74,230
  • Number of Examinees appearing on any given day –
    • 90,176 – July 5, 7, 9, 11
    • 82,603 – July 13, 15, 17, 19
    • 99,973 – July 6, 8, 10, 12
    • 1,03,404 – July 14, 16, 18
    • 59,059 – July 20
    • 82,841 July 24, 26, 28, 30
  • Total number of examination centres: 847
    • 580 centres have less than 200 candidates
    • 208 centres have 201-250
    • 58 centres have 251-300
    • 1 centre has more than 300
  • Average number of examinees in an examination centre on any day: 115-132
  • Maximum number of examinees in an examination centre on any day: 312
2. Respondents may issue orders / guidelines to treat e-Admit cards as e-passes for free movement of
candidates in all zones including containment zones; or the Respondents may provide for one standby examination centre in a nearby location for those examination centres which are likely to be in a containment zone
Regarding e-Admit cards being treated as e-passes, the Hon’ble Court may issue directions to Union of India.

ICAI has also plans to conduct re-examination at examination centres where in view of the State / Central / MHA guidelines, the
examinations could not be held as per the original schedule.

3. Result be declared within a time limit and at least 7 days before the commencement of next exams / cycle It may be complied with.
4.
  • Respondents to provide Free Transportation and Free Accommodation
  • If any candidates gets infected due to appearing in exams, ICAI should provide free medical treatment
  • ICAI must deploy its own doctors to give requisite
    medical certificate to students suffering from non-Covid-19
    fever on the day of examination
  • Respondents to conduct mandatory free Covid-19 Tests of all candidates and teachers, invigilators and staff deployed, and also vaccinate them and start vaccination drive
  • The same is not within the domain of ICAI. However, the Hon’ble Court may be pleased to issue appropriate directions to Union of India in this respect.
  • These are neither possible nor practical.
  • The Institute has issued Guidelines for Examination Centres, Examination
    functionaries and Candidates (Annexure ‘B’), which are very comprehensive and in full compliance with Government of India guidelines, with focus on social distancing, thermal scanning and adequate facilities of face mask, sanitizer, etc.
  • However, Covid-19 Tests and/or
    vaccination by the Institute is not possible.
5.
  • Opt-Out option has not been given in the Important Announcement dated
    05.06.2021
  • Opt-Out option be given to those candidates who are
    appearing for exams under old syllabus
  • Vide Important Announcement dated
    21.06.2021 (ANNEXURE ‘C’ (Pg.14)), Opt-Out option has been given in case the Examinee or his/her family members residing in the same premises are infected with Covid-19 on or after 21.06.2021. The option can be exercised on production of Covid-19 positive RTPCR report. Such examinee would be shifted to November, 2021 examination cycle.
  • It is pertinent to mention that in December, 2020, when the Institute of Company Secretaries of India held the examinations, the Opt Out option was given to only those candidates who produced Covid-19 positive test report of either self or any immediate relative. Copy of Important Announcement dated 03.12.2020 by ICSI is ANNEXURE ‘D’ (Pgs. 15 to 20) @ Pg.19, para (xx).

(PRAMOD DAYAL)
AOR for Respondent No.2
– The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India

Filed on: 27.06.2021

Download Brief Note on Behalf of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India on The Issues Raised In The Writ Petition

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