'Be flexible': SC tells ICAI to let students opt out of exams till last day due to COVID crisis; next hearing 2 July

The court directed the ICAI to issue a fresh notification in this regard and said the next hearing would be on 2 July.

FP Staff June 29, 2020 15:12:28 IST
'Be flexible': SC tells ICAI to let students opt out of exams till last day due to COVID crisis; next hearing 2 July

The Supreme Court on Monday told the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to "be flexible" with the opt-out scheme for its exams and consider permitting students to opt-out till the last day due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, according to several media reports.

The bench, comprising Justices  AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjeev Khanna, was hearing a PIL filed by Alakh Alok Srivastava on behalf of 'India Wide Parents Association' challenging ICAI's 'opt-out' scheme for CA exams scheduled between 29 July and 16 August.

The plea claimed the ICAI notification on 15 June violated the students' fundamental rights and sought an increase in the number of examination centres so as to ensure at least one centre in every district of India.

Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, appearing for the petitioner, argued that there are students in containment zones and there may be aspirants residing in places where lockdowns have been extended by state governments, Bar and Bench reported. Srivastava said there were three main issues: increasing the number of exam centres, candidates in places under lockdown and how the CBSE model can be implemented, as per the report.

The ICAI, represented by senior advocate Ramji Srinivasan, told the bench the limited opt-out window was kept to have a sense of certainty with regard to the number of students taking the exam, Live Law reported. Counsel further informed the court that 53,000 students had already opted out of taking the exam, as per the report.

The ICAI told the court there are 500 exam centres across the country that have been sanitised and prepared with optimum hygienic conditions for students and that "it's not possible to change" as per Bar and Bench. The court then asked if a student that opted for a centre could change at the last minute if the location became a containment zone. To which Srinivasan said he'd have to seek instructions regarding the deadline for changing exam centre, as per the report.

The court said the ICAI should consider permitting students to opt-out of the exams till the last day as the situation around COVID-19 is dynamic and not static, Live Law reported. "Those who have not opted out and are unable to take the exam due to any exigency, let those have the same benefit as those who opted out," Justice Khanwilar suggested, as per Live Law. 

"If someone does not appear for the CA exam, treat them as opted out. As simple as that. Assume it is COVID-related." The court directed the ICAI to issue a fresh notification in this regard and said the next hearing would be on 2 July.

With inputs from PTI

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