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SC directs ICAI to let candidates opt out of July exams if they had ‘problems related to COVID-19’

Chartered Accountancy aspirants should be given the option even if the exam centre has been changed to another location within the same city, it says.

Spelling relief to lakhs of Chartered Accountancy aspirants, the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed them to opt out if they or their family members suffered from COVID-19.

The court directed the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to allow candidates to opt out of the exam scheduled in July if candidates were able to produce a certificate from a registered medical practitioner showing that either they or any family member were suffering from COVID-19 or its after-effects and were unable to prepare for the exam.

The court further directed that candidates should be given the option to opt out even if the exam centre has been changed to another location within the same city.

“If you are changing the exam centre at the last minute because of your own logistical problem, you should leave it to the candidate to decide whether he or she wants to opt out. You have to give the candidate the choice and respect their choice,” Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, leading a three-judge Bench, addressed the ICAI, represented by senior advocate Ramji Srinivasan.

The court said candidates who opted out due to “COVID-related problems” and exam centre changes should be allowed to appear in the back-up exam whenever it would be conducted.

The Supreme Court, allowing the ICAI to go ahead with its exams in July, directed the institute to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedure issued by the competent authority under the law, including the Disaster Management Act.

On Tuesday, the court had pointed out to the ICAI that opt-out option should be made available not only for candidates who are COVID-19 positive at the time of exam but also for those who could not prepare for their exams due to extended post-pandemic complications certified by an expert.

“Have you taken into consideration the post-COVID effects,” Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, on the Bench, had asked Mr. Srinivasan

“Some of us on the Bench have personally experienced this… Even the fatigue factor after a COVID attack is horrible. Some people have not been able to work for two to three weeks… You cannot expect a CA aspirant to put in his best when he is suffering from post-COVID issues… The preparation for this exam is not simple… This is all about giving a person an opportunity,” Justice Khanwilkar had observed.

The Bench was hearing pleas to postpone the CA exam due to the pandemic.

The ICAI had said that July was the apt time to conduct the exam with all safety protocols in place, considering the lull in cases. The third wave may hit in September or October.

The ICAI had said the candidates were eager to take the exams. “Out of 3,74,230 candidates, as on June 27, more than 2,82,000 candidates have downloaded their admit cards, thus showing their eagerness to appear in the examinations,” it had argued.

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