The Supreme Court on Monday assured lakhs of students appearing for the chartered accountancy examinations scheduled from July 29 that due to the COVID-19 situation, if any student fails to take all examinations, such students will be given the benefit of appearing in the next cycle of tests in November 2020.
To formalize this relief, a three-judge bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar asked the examination conducting body – Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to come out with a notification specifying this provision by Thursday. The ICAI agreed to bring the proposed notification to Court following which it will be notified to all students.
Nearly 3.46 lakh students have registered to take the CA examinations scheduled from July 29. In view of the COVID-19 situation, the ICAI came out with an “Opt-Out” scheme by which students could opt out of the examinations in July and attempt the same in November this year. Students had to indicate their preference for this scheme by June 29 to be eligible for this relief. The ICAI had proposed this scheme realizing the practical difficulties faced by students situated in containment zone, or who are unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions.
This scheme was challenged in Supreme Court by one Anubha Shrivastava Sahai who alleged that those opting for ‘Opt-Out’ should not be left at a disadvantage due to the COVID-19 situation. The petition argued by advocate Alakh Shrivastava sought more examination centres so that students willing to write the examination are not forced to travel distances.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna asked ICAI whether it was possible to extend the opt-out scheme to even those students who did not register this choice in advance but were later unable to give the examination due to COVID-related reasons.
“The present situation is dynamic. You have to be flexible to change according to requirement of each area and concerns of students in that area,” said the bench. ICAI represented by senior counsel Ramji Srinivas accepted the suggestion and said that if any student is unable to take the examination, all examinations in that cluster or group will be cancelled and the student will have an option to take the exams in November. ICAI Secretary Rakesh Sehgal told the Court that increasing examination centres at this stage was not possible. Out of 3.46 lakh candidates, only 57000 had chosen “Opt-Out” scheme, ICAI counsel stated.
The Court further asked ICAI to ensure that the time to exercise Opt Out scheme should be extended by one week beyond June 29. The bench further sought the Ministry of Home Affairs Guidelines for conducting CBSE examinations to be adopted by ICAI. With these incorporations, ICAI is expected to submit a revised notification to Court on Thursday.