The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on Monday informed the Supreme Court that it has decided not to hold the CA examination this semester (May cycle), and postponed it till November against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic.
The May cycle of exams was scheduled between July 29 and August 16.
ICAI's counsel told a bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna that the May cycle examination will be merged with the November 2020 cycle.
The bench observed that as per affidavit filed on July 6, the examination schedule in July has been cancelled.
As Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, representing the petitioner, submitted there are certain aspects in connection with the CA examinations, the apex court, disposing of the petition, noted that liberty is granted to the petitioner to make a representation to the ICAI regarding other suggestions/issues, and the ICAI could decide it on merits.
The bench said the decision should be taken preferably within four weeks after receiving the copy of the representation.
The petitioner has argued for more examination centres across the country.
On June 29, the apex court had told the ICAI to be flexible and consider allowing students to opt out of the exams, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Don't be rigid, be flexible. Show some concern for the students," it said, noting that the option of change of centres should be made available for the students in order to avoid travel, and things cannot be rigid as the situation is evolving.
The ICAI counsel had sought time to issue fresh guidelines in connection with the current cycle of the CA exams slated this year. Counsel contended that there are 567 test centres, which are sanitised properly, and it cannot change the centres now.
The bench replied that the option to change should be there, if in case the area becomes a containment zone. "This option should be kept open till the last week... the situation is not static. It is dynamic," noted the bench.
To this, the ICAI counsel said the SOP is in place, authorities will shift the centre in case there is a containment zone.
The bench also asked the ICAI that if a candidate in a containment zone is forced to appear in an exam only in November, then could it be counted as appearing in July.
The ICAI counsel contended before the court that the concerns of the petitioner are unfounded in connection with the opt out option and the ICAI was bound by the Chartered Accountants Act. Counsel submitted if a candidate sends an email saying he/she is unable to take the paper due to Covid-19, it will not be questioned.
"It is a group of 4-4. They can choose to appear at a later date if they are Covid-19 affected," contended the ICAI counsel. The bench then asked the ICAI to issue fresh guidelines incorporating the suggestions made by it and posted the matter for further hearing in July. "ICAI counsel may take instructions and file the modified draft notification setting out the changes," said the top court.
A PIL was filed by the President of the India Wide Parents Association seeking quashing of the notification issued by the ICAI allowing chartered accountant aspirants to opt out of the exams this year.