Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Delhi High Court directs ICAI to form panel of Scribes / Writers for candidates with Disabilities

Dear colleagues,

This is further to my earlier posts dated 01 May 201303 May 2012 & 06 April 2012 on the issue of Scribes / Writers facility for the candidates with disabilities (Visually Impaired / Blind Candidates) appearing in ICAI examinations  and frequent legal cases against the august institution. 

A candidate Ms. Reena Bhatia, a visually impaired  candidate was denied facility of multiple writers and also a writer who is from the same field due to rigid rules. The recent guidelines of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India, make it amply clear that there shall be no restriction of age, relationship, educational qualification etc on the scribe. on the contrary, the exam system will have to strengthened to see that the system is not misused among the other things.

Now a single judge bench of the Delhi High Court headed by Justice VK Jain has, on a petition by Ms. Reena Bhatia, directed the ICAI to have a panel of scribes in all major cities so that the same could be provided to the students by the ICAI. The court has also directed the ICAI to also bear the cost of scribes as is done by JNU and Delhi University and also prepare a schedule of charge within three months. 

The judgement also agrees that there should be no restriction on the number of scribes and the candidate can use multiple scribes, however, the judgement still fall short of expectations in light of very progressive Scribe Guidelines from the Ministry of Social Justice Govt. of India issued in February 2013.

Judgment has two inherent contradictions with the new Scribe Guidelines of GOI, Feb 2013.

(a) Firstly the GOI guidelines insist that the candidate should have the discretion of opting for his own scribe/reader/ lab assistant or request the Examination Body for the same. The examining  body may also identify the scribe/ reader/lab assistant to make panels at the District/Division/ State level as per the requirements of the examination. In such instances the candidates should be allowed to meet the scribe a day before the examination so that the candidates get a chance to check and verify whether the scribe is suitable or not. 

Contradiction: The judgement seem to granting leave to the respondent ICAI to  amend its own guidelines so as to deny the facility of engaging private scribes/ writers to the candidates at the places where a panel of scribes/ writers is prepared by it, provided one or more writers/ scribes from such panel are provided to the candidates. This leave is likely to take away the discretion of the candidate of choosing scribe and may counter productive to the intent of policy makers. The courts fails to recognise that in certain disabling conditions, such as cerebral palsy who also use the scribe services, the speech of the candidate is often affected and only a private scribe with experience of working with the person would be able to reduce the dictation to writing. A new scribe with no experience with that person may not even understand properly what is being dictated!

(b) Secondly, the GOI guideline insist that criteria like educational qualification, marks scored, age or other such restrictions for the scribe/reader/lab assistant should not be fixed. Instead, the invigilation system should be strengthened, so that the candidates using scribe/reader/lab assistant do not indulge in malpractices like copying and cheating during the examination.

Contradiction: The judgement on the contrary says that the qualifications of the scribes/ writers shall continue to be governed by the existing guidelines (of ICAI) which may work counter productive from the perspective that the writers given to them or allowed under the existing ICAI guidelines may have no knowledge of accountancy and mathematics hence will not be able to write correctly even after correct dictation given to them. In absence of any mechanism, it would be difficult to cross check whether what has been dictated by the candidate has been correctly reproduced by such a scribe. This defeats the very purpose of GOI Guideline which talks of strengthening the existing examination system. 

To access the judgement (uploaded on Google Drive in PDF), please click here: Reena Bhatia Versus ICAI (Writ Petition No. 4540 of 2013) Delhi High Court, Judgement Delivered on 18 November 2013.  

Here is the news coverage in the Times of India

TNN | Nov 19, 2013, 12.12 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Monday directed The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to prepare within six months its own panel of scribes to assist disabled students, including the visually impaired, in writing chartered accountancy exams conducted by it.

Justice V K Jain said that the institute should either empanel appropriate persons to function as scribes or engage the panel of scribes prepared by other universities such as JNU and Delhi University that maintain their own panels. The court's order came on a petition filed by a visually impaired chartered accountant student Reena Bhatia, who sought direction to the institute to prepare a panel of competent scribes to be provided to differently-abled candidates during their exams.

ICAI had told the court that it has not maintained it own panel of scribes as it did not had its own campus and had to conduct examination at as many as in 377 centres spread over 96 cities throughout the country as well as in four cities outside the country. On this, the court directed ICAI to prepare a panel of the scribes to differently abled person at least in the "major cities where examinations are held by it".

Source: Times of India

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