The CA examinations which are conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) in May, were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are now scheduled to be held from July 5-20.
ICAI told the top court that as on date, the numbers of COVID-19 cases are comparatively low and thus it would be in the best interests of the candidates if the examinations are held as per the schedule and not cancelled or postponed.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose said that since it has not received the ICAI note, it will hear the matter on Tuesday (June 29).
The top court is 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.
At the outset, senior advocate Ramji Srinivasan, appearing for ICAI, said that they have circulated a note which if taken into consideration deals with some of the issues raised in the petitions.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that they are not seeking deferment but want more centres to be given as many of them have been unilaterally closed by ICAI.
The bench said it will hear the matter on Tuesday and asked Srinivasan to take instruction on the contention raised by Arora.
In the note, ICAI has said the “chartered accountant exams are professional examinations and ought not to be equated with CBSE or other State Board Examinations for Class 10 or 12”, and it is in the interest of the candidates to start their “professional lives and earn livelihoods”.
It said the ICAI has no vested interest in holding the exams but to safeguard the interest of the aspiring CAs, ensuring that the exams are held at the most appropriate and conducive time.
The ICAI further told the top court that whenever the risk has been minimum this court has allowed exams to be held, like Class 12 exams in Kerala and Bihar which were held in April, 2021 and February, 2021 respectively.
“Further, the 3rd wave of COVID-19 cases is expected only by September-October. The Institute of Company Secretaries of India and the Institute of Cost Accountants of India are scheduled to hold examinations in August-September, 2021.
“Many candidates appear for 2 or more of these exams, hence the three Institutes hold the exams in a manner that the same do not overlap. Therefore, since COVID is dynamic in nature, the ICAI has got this very narrow window to hold the exam in July, 2021,” it said.
The ICAI said the CA exams are normally scheduled to be held in May, but owing to the high number of cases at that time it postponed them, and after evaluating all factors, has now decided to hold the exams this month when the number of COVID-19 cases is comparatively low.
It 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.
About the arrangements, it said that the average number of examinees in an examination room will be 12 and in any case not more than 50 percent of the capacity of the room.
It said there will be 10,820 exam rooms in 847 centres and the total number of examinees will be 3,74,230.
It further added that of these 580 centres have less than 200 candidates, 208 centres have 201-250 candidates, 58 centres have 251-300 candidates and one centre has more than 500 candidates.
It said that candidates are eager to appear in the examination, as out of 3,74,230 candidates, as on June 27, more than 2, 82, 000 candidates have downloaded their admit cards.
“It is understandable that some of the candidates would have inhibitions in appearing for the exams, but that cannot be allowed to jeopardize the aspirations of a majority of the candidates,” it said.