Rajasthan HC Quashes ICAI Order Cancelling Student’s Result
13th May 2021, the Rajasthan High Court in Risha Lodha vs The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Anr., — CWP no. 6261 of 2021 – quashed the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) Committees order cancelling the results of the petitioner on grounds of her sending an email criticizing and questioning the Institute’s officials for holding offline examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The HC while directing ICAI to declare the petitioner’s results imposed costs.
The petitioner, Risha Lodha, a Chartered Accountancy student having cleared the Foundation stage, had applied for the Intermediate Examination scheduled to be held in November 2020. Exasperated, she wrote an email to the ICAI officials cautioning that the conduct of physical examinations would lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases and suggested the conduct of online examinations. The petitioner then opted out of the November 2020 exams and instead appeared for the examinations scheduled in January 2021. 22nd February 2021, when the CA results were declared, she was informed that her result had been put on hold, subsequent to which she sent an e-mail tendering an apology for her earlier remarks. However, following a disciplinary hearing, the Examination Committee cancelled her results for questioning the Institute’s officials in a critical email.
Aggrieved, the petitioner filed a writ petition before the Rajasthan High Court seeking a directive for the ICAI to declare her CA Intermediate Examination result.
The Court observed that the petitioner was not informed about the cancellation or possibility of cancellation of her result, and therefore the order cancelling her results was illegal and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Further, as per Regulation 41 of the Chartered Accountants Regulations, 1988, the Examination Committee is authorised to take disciplinary action with respect to disorderly conduct in or near an examination hall. The court observed that the e-mail dated 20th November 2020 had no nexus with the examination hall and therefore the disciplinary proceedings were void ab initio.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Dinesh Mehta observed:
“As Voltaire said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Thus, the Institute which is adorned with enormous power to elevate or uplift the lives of vulnerable & struggling students, is required to practice greater restraint in invoking its powers especially against the students. Instant case called for not just restraint but absolute abstinence from initiating any action against the petitioner, particularly when she had submitted a beseeching response.”
Accordingly, the Rajasthan High Court set aside the decision of the Examination Committee cancelling the result of the petitioner and directed ICAI to declare the result on its website and send the original mark sheet and certificate of passing – the court perused the result which was submitted in a sealed envelope and found that she had passed – to the petitioner.
The Court also imposed costs of Rs 20,000 on the respondent and in favour of the petitioner.
The Court remarked:
“a professional body like the respondent Institute should introspect and ensure that its overenthusiasm of attaining professional excellence and endeavours of setting high standards of discipline should not silence rather stifle the speech of a student or its member in the manner that has been done in the present case”.
Ankitha Subramanya | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL