Published: 02nd July 2020
Figuring out feasibility of conducting exams amid COVID crisis: Institute of Chartered Accountants of India tells SC
10. On June 29, the apex court had observed that ICAI should be flexible in conducting exams amid the COVID-19 pandemic and take care of candidates' concerns
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it would assess the feasibility of conducting CA exams, scheduled between July 29 and August 16, in view of the spike in number of COVID-19 cases across the country and consult states and examination centres on this issue. The ICAI's counsel told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar that cases of coronavirus have increased and some of the states have extended the restrictions imposed amid the spike in the number of infection.
He sought time from the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, for contacting examination centres to access the ground situation and explore the feasibility of conducting the exams. The top court was hearing through video conferencing a plea which has challenged the 'opt out' option provided by the ICAI to the candidates alleging that it "arbitrarily" discriminates between the aspirants in the May cycle of CA examination.
The apex court, after hearing the submissions, said it would hear the matter on July 10. On June 29, the apex court had observed that ICAI should be flexible in conducting exams amid the COVID-19 pandemic and take care of candidates' concerns. It had suggested that option for change in examination centre should be made available to the candidates till the last week before the scheduled exams considering the fact that an area may become a containment zone due to the coronavirus situation.
The apex court had said that ICAI should be flexible on the issues of 'opt out' and change of examination centre as the situation prevailing due to the pandemic was not static and continuously changing. Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, appearing for the petitioner, had earlier told the bench that number of examination centres should be increased and there should be one centre per district. The ICAI had expressed difficulty on this and told the court that over 500 examination centres have been identified and sanitized properly.
The ICAI's counsel had earlier said that out of around 3,46,000 registered aspirants, only 53,000 have taken the 'opt out' option. The petitioner, president of India Wide Parents Association', has claimed in the plea that ICAI has stated that students, who have already submitted online examination application for May examination cycle, shall be allowed to 'opt out' and carry forward their candidature to November 2020 examination cycle.
"It is respectfully submitted that Respondent No.1 ICAI has notified that for the students who choose opt-out option, this attempt (May 2020) will be treated as cancelled/not counted. Thus, such student will be deprived of the May, 2020, attempt, as compared to other group of students, who choose opt-in option," the plea said, while seeking quashing of the announcement made in this regard on June 15.
"The said 'opt-out' option discriminates between those underprivileged group of CA students/ aspirants, who are living in remote areas of the country or living in the containment zones and thus are slated to lose one precious 'examination attempt' by choosing 'opt-out' option amidst ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as compared to that privileged group of students/ aspirants, who are living in big cities/ green zones and thus they have no problem in appearing in the said examination," it said. It has said that free transportation and accommodation should be provided to the aspirants near their respective examination centres. It has further sought directions to the authorities to conduct mandatory free COVID-19 test of all aspirants and teachers and staffs deployed at the examination centres.