Rajasthan High Court Bench at Jodhpur on 13.05.2021 passed an order for Writ petition filed in case of Risha Lodha Vs. The Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of India and 2. The Deputy Secretary (Examination), The Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of India wherein Hon’ble High court held that ICAI is not justified in withholding result of CA student stating that she had made derogatory remarks where the same is incorrect.
Hon’ble Rajasthan High court suggested ICAI to take a more lenient view against such actions of students and quoted “With great power comes great responsibility”.
Facts of the Case:
The petitioner is a CA intermediate student who was appearing for Nov, 2020 attempt which were scheduled to start from 21.11.2020.
On 20.11.2020 petitioner decided to write an e-mail to the President of ICAI and other office bearers wherein the petitioner highlighted the situation of spread of Covid-19 and cautioned that if the examinations are held, it will lead to exponential growth in number of Covid cases.
Though the petitioner made many emotional comments, but the thrust of her e-mail was only to suggest that online infrastructure be developed so that all levels of CA Examinations be conducted.
The petitioner and her father got infected with Covid and she opted out of November, 2020 examination and appeared for exam to be held in January, 2021.
Petitioner appeared for all the exams. On 22.2.2021, as a bolt from the blue, she received an email dated 22.2.2021 from the Dy. Secretary (Examinations) – respondent no.2, informing that her result had been put on hold, because of derogatory remarks she had made in her e-mail.
No sooner had the petitioner received the notice aforesaid than she sent an e-mail (in the evening of 22.2.2021 itself) expressing her unconditional apology for her inappropriate remarks.
Regardless of the aforesaid letter, vide which, the petitioner had literally eschewed whatever she had written in her e-mail, respondent No.2 proceeded to send her a communication dated 7.3.2021 requiring her presence on 10.3.2021 at Jaipur.
The petitioner appeared on the scheduled date and time at Jaipur and put forth her explanation, but she was kept uninformed about the order/result of the hearing.
On 26.3.2021, the Institute declared result of CA Intermediate Examinations. The petitioner surfed official website
of the Institute for her result, only to find that her result has been cancelled, under caption “ADOPTED UNFAIR MEANS. LETTER FOLLOWS”.
Faced with such situation, the petitioner sent an e-mail to respondent no.2, inter alia, showing her concern that the result had been cancelled indicating that she had adopted unfair means.
In response to petitioner’s above e-mail, the respondent no. 2 responded vide e-mail dated 30.3.2021 and informed that the Examination Committee had reached a conclusion that she was guilty of making derogatory remarks in the captioned examination and thus, her result of CA Intermediate Examination held in January, 2021 had been cancelled.
The respondent replied that petitioner had not disclosed all the emails exchanged between the two and hence there has been concealment of facts.
Further, it was also submitted by the respondent that Hon’ble Supreme court had also rejected a petition filed by another student and allowed conducting the exams by ICAI. Hence, the e-mail sent by the student was derogatory in nature and since it was related to examination, the examination committee had jurisdiction over the same.
Judgement by High court:
Hon’ble High court begin by saying that the proceedings done by the committee are without jurisdiction and against the principles of natural justice.
Further, it mentioned that the e-mail sent by the student was addressing the President of ICAI and not the exam committee and hence the exam committee had no jurisdiction over the same.
Exam committee has jurisdiction if any action is done while conducting the action but since the e-mail was sent a day before examination started, the committee had no jurisdiction over the same.
Also, on going through the e-mail sent by petitioner, High court found that there was nothing mentioned in the e-mail which could be said as derogatory, the petitioner could have avoided a few sentences but that cannot be the basis to consider the same as derogatory as she was just expressing her concern over the increasing number of cases.
Further, High court also held that “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” and instead of burrying the hatchet, it literally opened a battle-front.
It is rather disturbing that the petitioner was personally heard on 10.3.2021 yet no order was ever communicated/supplied to her. She came to know that her result had been cancelled that too, citing “adopted unfair means”.
The impugned decision cancelling petitioner’s result is nothing short of colourable exercise of powers. It also showcases vindictiveness of respondent Committee.
Hence, Rajasthan High court ordered that “this Court has no hesitation in holding that the action of the Examination Committee was without jurisdiction; proceedings conducted by it were arbitrary and against the principles of natural justice and their culmination in the form of decision dated 9/10.3.2021 has been contrary to law. (62) The writ petition is thus, allowed with the cost of litigation, quantified at Rs.20,000/-.”
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