New Delhi: Observing that the scheme provided by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is not enough, the Supreme Court Wednesday permitted candidates scheduled to appear for the upcoming CA exams to opt out if they or their family members have suffered from COVID-19.
A three-judge bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose also made it clear that a candidate need not produce RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test if medical certificate issued by registered medical practitioners for his family members is produced along with request for opting out.
A candidate who has suffered COVID-19 personally or any of his family members, so certified by a registered medical practitioner, as a result of which he is unable to appear for exam, or disabled from preparing for the exam, is entitled to exercise the option of opting out. It will not be considered as an attempt. Such candidate will be permitted to appear for the next examination for both old and new syllabus, the bench said.
With regard to candidates affected by lockdown during the relevant period of exam, the apex court said as per ICAI scheme, such candidate will be allowed to opt-out and will not be treated as an attempt and such candidate will be allowed to appear in the next examination.
As regards the logistical arrangements, both infrastructural and human resources-wise, the ICAI shall ensure that there is strict adherence to the SOP notified by the competent authority, including the Disaster Management Authority.
It is also clarified if any candidate who is attempting exam gets COVID-19 during exam, he will be allowed to opt out and it will not be treated as an attempt. They can give the exam in the next year. He may be permitted to appear in backup exams as per the rules, the bench said.
The top court also said that in case of last minute change of examination centres, it disapproves the suggestion of ICAI that if it's in the same city, the candidate will not be allowed to opt out.
We direct that candidate should be allowed to opt out and it will not be treated us an attempt. Such candidate can appear in backup when situation is conducive, it said.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, who was appearing for one of the petitioners, said that some serious issues have not been addressed in the note filed by the ICAI and it is not in line with what the apex court had observed.
Arora referred to the issue of RT-PCR report and said candidates, who have to travel to different places to appear in the exam, may have suffered from COVID-19 earlier but he or she has not recovered fully.
The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking different reliefs including an opt-out option for the candidates, postponement of the exam, and increase in number of centres this year.
During the earlier hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench observed there are instances where the RT-PCR test may be negative but the person shows symptoms of COVID.
The ICAI has recently said that opt-out option will be provided in case the examinee himself or herself or his family members (residing in the same premises) are infected with COVID-19.
The bench had said that RT-PCR report should not be the parameter and there has to be a competent authority having medical experience which can issue certificate to the candidates looking at COVID or COVID related issues.
ICAI had on Monday told the apex court that it is the most conducive time to hold CA exams as COVID-19 spread is now at a substantially low level, offering an opportune moment for chartered accountants to further their professional career.
It had said that the present COVID situation in the country is similar to when this court had allowed ICAI to hold examinations in November, 2020 and there is no reason to believe that it will not take adequate precautions....