Showing posts with label Guidelines for availing Sribes/ Writer by Blind students. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guidelines for availing Sribes/ Writer by Blind students. Show all posts

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

ICAI's writer guidelines still discriminatory against persons with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

This post is to alert the students with disabilities appearing in the CA exams organised by ICAI that start tomorrow onwards i.e. 02 May 2013 onwards and are facing any problem with regard to scribe / writers etc. 

The Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India on the order of Chief Commissioner Disabilities, have issued "Uniform and Comprehensive Guidelines for conducting examinations for the persons with disabilities"  vide Memorandum No F.No. 16-110/2003-DD.III dated 26 Feb 2013. These guidelines are binding on all the recruitment agencies, academics/ examination bodies including ICAI.

However, the ICAI's has till date not taken any step to revise their writer guidelines. Many of you would recall that last year during the month of April, we had to challenge the arbitrary and unreasonable Writer's Guidelines that put draconian conditions for usage of writers/ scribe by the persons with disabiliteis.  This issue was covered in my earlier post dated 26 April 2012 titled "ICAI imposes arbitrary writers/ scribes conditions for students with disabilities". 

When the ICAI did not budge even after a clear cut order from the Court of Chief Commissioner Disabilities, we had to urgently move the Delhi High Court on 02 May 2012 who passed its Judgement in the matter titled "Subhash Chandra Vashishth Vs. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India" on the same day allowing the petition and striking down the arbitrary guidelines as detailed in my earlier post dated 02 May 2012 for the said exams.

Discrimination Continues

Though as directed by the Hon'ble High Court in the above order, in a subsequent meeting of the ICAI board, some conditions objected by us were removed and a new guideline was brought out. However, several restrictive conditions still remained which are now running contrary to the Uniform Guidelines of the MSJE dated 26 Feb 2013. 

One of them is "Writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and in case there is a need to change the writer for the reasons beyond the control of the concerned examinee or the writer and a request in this behalf is made, change may be allowed.  Such a change in writer will be permissible once during the course of an examination." 

This works against the interest of the persons with disabilities since it is difficult to find good writers in the exam season. And one person can have exigencies of life that may now allow him/her to attend all the examinations.  Only a person with disability knows how difficult it is to find a competent writer. 

The ICAI has further restricted the writers on the basis of qualifications. The chartered accountancy is a technical examination and any undergraduate can not reduced the dictation on the answer sheet with perfection. But the ICAI has put in the following qualifications for writers:

Qualification of writer as per ICAI's Guidelines
MSJE Guidelines
10th/ /Matriculation 

No cap on qualification. Invigilation needs to be strengthened
Final/Intermediate [IPCE]    
Under Graduate and neither registered students of CA/CWA/CS course nor passed Final examination and nor a member of the ICAI, ICWAI, and ICSI.
No cap of qualifications
Post qualification course (meant for members of 

Graduate (other than in Commerce or Corporate Laws Stream )  and neither registered students of CA/CWA/CS course nor passed Final examination and nor a member of the ICAI, ICWAI, and ICSI.
No cap on qualifications

One of the candidate wrote to the ICAI officials in mid of March 2013 requesting ICAI to relax the conditions so that they could appear with multiple writers those who are at least commerce graduates. However, today i.e. one day before the examination, suddenly the candidate received the following response by email :

"Please refer to your mail dated 14th March, 2013, stating, inter alia, as under:-

(a)  I be permitted to get different scribes for the different days of examinations so that unavailability of good scribes does not cause an impediment to my succeeding at the examination and;

(b)  It is requested that the regulations with relation to scribes be revised to enable visually impaired persons to use scribes who are commerce graduates.

In connection in the above, following is stated as under:

a)   In terms of related guidelines in place, ‘writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and in case there is a need to change the writer for the reasons beyond the control of the concerned examinee or the writer and a request in this behalf is made, change may be allowed.  Such a change in writer will be permissible once during the course of an examination.’

Hence, we regret our inability to accede to your request for different writers. In case, however, change in writer is beyond your control, you may submit a  request at the appropriate for change in writer as stated above. Such a change would be permissible only once.  The related guidelines are hosted on website .  You may like to visit the same.

b) The guidelines are framed at appropriate level vis-à-vis considering all the relevant factors.  Please refer to point No.2 of the enclosed revised guidelines.

ICAI, Exams."

The candidate was shocked to receive the response just a day before the exam. It is ICAI's tactic to inform the candidates closer to the actual exam so that no candidate can approach for legal remedy and suffer in silence. They did this last year also. 

The so called revised guidelines hosted on the icai website  have been found to be arbitrary, unlawful and highly unfair for persons with disabilities. The Additional Secretary- Exams, ICAI has been alerted to resolve this on priority today through a detailed telephonic call and also a detailed email by the undersigned. However, the response did not confirm any immediate action but only a typical  assurance "we are seized of the matter and are looking at it. Lets see what we can do  and we will try to do something....."

The Chief Commissioner- Disabilities has also acted promptly with a letter asking the ICAI to not only allow the students with disabilities to avail multiple number of scribes/ writers to write their exams but also have writers with no cap on qualifications or age etc. It means a student with disability can also take along with him/her a junior student studying in the same college/institution or a family member.

All students with disabilities espcially those who are entitled for writers/ extra time and who are to appear in the ICAI examination that starts tommorrow should claim the benefits of the Scribe Guidelines of the Ministry of Social Justice referred above.If any of the students/ candidates with disabilities particularly those with vision impairment  face any problem while appearing for the ICAI exams that start tomorrow, please do let us know.

Mr. Pranay Gadodia & others at Eye-way Help Desk  deserve accolades for facilitating the candidates approach us in time. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Court of CCPD issues notices to Department of Disability Affairs, GOI

Dear Colleagues,

Even after more than 16 years of the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, there is no Uniform Guideline for availing scribes and writers by the persons with Low Vision and Blindness. The candidates continue to suffer in absence of such guidelines and are often on the mercy of the institution/ departments  both in the matter of studies as well as employment.

A recent PIL by the undersigned against ICAI for putting forth unreasonable guidelines for blind students was just an example in the recent past of such hardships faced by the visually impaired students/persons. Please see my earlier posts dated 26 April 2012 and 02 May 2012 on the subject. The court did solve the problem with its pro-active Order the same day for visually impaired students of ICAI but how many students and how many times will be able to afford going to knock the doors of judiciary?

In the year 2005, All India Confederation of Blind had also drafted a detailed guideline for the scribe highlighting the issues and shared with the Chief Commissioner Disabilities and the  concerned Ministry. This was also discussed during the annual meeting of the State Commissioner's Disabilities in subsequent year. However, it remained pending for a long time due to inaction of the then Disability Division (now Department of Disability Affairs).

Through a consultative process lead by Score Foundation, over 70 organisations working with the Persons with disabilities in India (especially Low Vision and Blind) to which I have been a party myself, had suggested an exhaustive document titled "Uniform Guidelines for Conducting Examinations (Practicals and/or Theory) for Blind and Low Vision Persons" and sent to  of Social Justice & Empowerment for their acceptance. However, it seems the Ministry has some other priorities than the every day sufferings of the stakeholders for which it exists.

The Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal department to coordinate the implementation of the Disabilities Act but have not acted on the issue in the interest of justice to alleviate the hardships of the stakeholders and sitting over the above guidelines for a pretty long time leading to untold miseries and hardships to the stakeholders.

In an unprecedented manner, the Court of Chief Commissioner Disabilities has issued notice to the sister department i.e. Department of Disability Affairs, under the same Ministry and sought explanation in the following unequivocal words:

"Take this show cause notice and explain as to why the Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt, of India, should not be directed to finalise, issue & circulate to all concerned comprehensive and uniform guidelines/norms for conduct of all examinations (both academic & recruitment related) as soon as may be keeping in mind, among other things, the suggestions of the complainants; and, pending finalisation, issuance and circulation of such comprehensive guidelines/norms, to circulate to all concerned the proposed guidelines/norms submitted by Score Foundation vide their letter dated 06.06.2012 for persons with blindness and persons with low vision and evolved by several organisations including Score Foundation on or before 20.10.2012 under intimation to this Court. The respondent department's reply should also explain reasons for the inordinate delay in finalisation, issuance and circulation of such comprehensive and uniform guidelines/norms for all persons with disabilities.

The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has further directed the respondent Department to appear before the Court of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in person or through a representative (not below the level of Group 'A (Class-l officer) or a counsel well versed with the case and with all the related documents on 02/11/2012 at 3.00 p.m. to present the case unless uniform and comprehensive policy for conduct of all kinds of examinations for all persons with disabilities is duly finalised and notified before that date."

To read/download the Show Cause Notice click here.

I congratulate Mr. PK Pincha, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Govt of India for rising up to the expectations in discharge of his constitutional duties under the law. I am hopeful that the officials of the Disability Division will not take it as an adversorial litigation like many other cases in which they keep defending the Ministry's (in)actions in the Delhi High Court and other forums- issue of sign language interpreter being just one odd example that is being contested by the Ministry for over two years now at the Government's expense!

It is an apathy on the part of the Ministry that the stakeholders- the persons with disabilities continue to suffer and it has to defend cases due to its in-actions in various courts and now face this show cause from a constitutional authority like CCPD. Hope the Department of Disability Affairs will notify the guideline without any delay before the next date of hearing in the court of CCPD i.e. 02nd November 2012.


Adv Subhash C Vashishth

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Delhi High Court strikes down arbitrary Writer / Scribe Guidelines of ICAI

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier post titled  ICAI imposes arbitrary Writers / Scribes Conditions for Students with Disabilities to know the background.

In the instant case, the examinees with disabilities of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), who were due to write their exams tomorrow onwards i.e. 03rd May 2012, received  the Admit Card and impugned writer guidelines on 26th April 2012, just days before the examination with weekly holiday in between. Despite the fact that this guideline titled; “Guidelines and Procedure to be followed regarding granting of Writer/ Extra Time to the Differently Abled Candidates” was finalized by the Examination Committee in its January 2012 meeting, the same was never put up on the website while there exist detailed instructions for examinees taking CA exams this year.

The examinees found these guidelines discriminatory and arbitrary and against the settled norms of writer guidelines.  This amounted to discouraging the students with disabilities from appearing in the forthcoming exams. The examinees immediately contacted the Addl Secretary (Exam) who told the candidates that he could not do anything since this was the decision of the Examination Committee taken during January 2012.

The examinees then contacted the author seeking help in resolving this issue so that they could appear in the examination with a proper writer.  It is pertinent to mention that the examinees with disabilities fearing retribution from the ICAI did not want to come out in open against the Institution.  The author also telephonically contacted the Addl. Secretary above, but he only promised that “he will look in to it”.

Sensing the non-serious attitude of the officer, the author immediately filed a complaint before the Chief Commissioner- Disabilities on 27th April 2012 seeking an urgent intervention in view of the exam starting 03rd of May 2012.

The Dy. Chief Commissioner, having verified the facts and the documents on record, immediately sent his order dated 30.04.2012 by email & Fax to the ICAI directing them to remove the unreasonable conditions for the writer to be used by candidates with disabilities and sought an action taken report by email/fax. 

The author has been following up since then with the ICAI but to no avail. The Institute  neither gave any assurance nor  withdrew the impugned guidelines.

Since no student was ready to come forward in open against the mighty Institution set up under an Act of Parliament in 1949 and the second largest accounting body in the whole world, the author was forced to become petitioner in an urgent "public interest litigation" filed before the Delhi High Court yesterday morning praying quashing of the impugned guidelines and staying the examinations/ making proper arrangements for the conducting examinations of persons with disabilities who may be using the writers/ scribes based on the earlier guidelines in the interest of justice. I must thank my associate Pankaj Sinha, a visually challenged lawyer at Human Rights Law Network for arguing the matter before the Hon'ble Court.

The double bench of Hon'ble Chief Justice Shri. AK Sikri and Hon'ble Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw directed the Institute to relax all three impugned conditions i.e.
  • Writer to be not more than 20 years, 
  • Only one writer to write all exams and lastly 
  • relative can not write the exams.
The Hon'ble court also verbally asked the media people present in the court to give wide coverage to this issue in national dailies so that it reaches all affected students and their families. 

Respecting the autonomy of the Institution, the Hon'ble Court clarified in its order,  "This order is only applicable for the current examination (May 2012 Exam.) and the Examination Committee of the ICAI  who is meeting to discuss this issue on 13 May 2012 will be entitled to take its own decision after considering the difficulties pointed out by the petitioner in this petition. This petition shall also be placed before the Examination Committee and treated as representation of the petitioner and the aforesaid arrangement made by us for the present examination would not be reflective of any final opinion in this matter."

At the same time, it also addressed the fears of the petitioner by ordering, "We make it clear that in case any amendments in the Guidelines are made by the respondent ICAI pursuant to the recommendations of the Examination Committee and the petitioner still feels aggrieved thereagainst, it would be open to the petitioner to approach the Courts again."

Documents available for Download

I am providing following documents that may come handy for parents, fellow activists and students to take up similar matters of discrimination before various forums.

(a)  Copy of Order of the Chief Commissioner -Disabilities in   PDF File.

(b)  Copy of the PIL Petition to the High Court of Delhi (Brief)  in PDF File 

(c)  Copy of the Judgement of the Hon'ble High Court in PDF File

Reflections of Stakeholders

Since morning I have been receiving thank you messages from parents, relatives, students, NGOs for this relief from the court of Hon'ble Chief Justice. Many parents while talking to me on phone broke down and expressed that they were feeling very helpless since they couldn't do much against the Institution in such a short span when three days before the exam it hands them such whimsical guidelines aimed at discouraging their wards to appear for the exams. I want to say to all such parents, affected persons not to accept injustices quietly. Please raise your voice. We have a very supportive Chief Commissioner- Disabilities as well as Judiciary (High Court) to ensure that justice is rendered to the needy, provided their doors are knocked in time.


I want to take this opportunity to thank  Shri TD Dhariyal, the Dy. Chief Commissioner- Disabilities and his desk officer Shri. Rajeev Malhotra, for being prompt in verifying the matter and issuing an immediate order to the ICAI and constantly following up the matter at my request. I also want to thank Mr. Pankaj Sinha, from HRLN for mentioning this matter out of turn before the Hon'ble Chief Justice at my request and then arguing the matter before the court successfully.

Media Coverage

HC asks ICAI to relax norms for disabled

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Wednesday directed the Institute of Charted Accountants in India (ICAI) to relax conditions for disabled candidates appearing for the CA examination that began on Wednesday. 

 While hearing a PIL seeking quashing of fresh guidelines of the ICAI for the examinees with disabilities appearing for this year’s CA examination, a division bench of acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw directed the institute to allow a relative of a disabled candidate to act as a writer during the examination. 

The court, however, said the writers for disabled students should not be from commerce background. In its order, the court also directed ICAI, which conducts the examination, to allow the examinees to change the writer throughout the examination that will last till May 17. 

Making it clear that this court’s order is only for this year’s examination, the bench asked the Examination Committee of ICAI to consider the issue and make necessary amendments in the guidelines for the examinations in future.

Other Coverage:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ICAI imposes arbitrary Writers / Scribes Conditions for Students with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is organizing its annual exams starting 03rd May 2012. It has provided “INSTRUCTIONS TO EXAMINEES – MAY, 2012” at link: These instructions are utterly silent on the conditions for  Scribes allowed for Persons with Disabilities as per law, though they are exhaustive on other conditions to be met /observed for the examination.

This time the candidates with disabilities have been surreptitiously sent a three page document titled “Guidelines and Procedure to be followed regarding granting of Writer/ Extra Time to the Differently Abled Candidates”. Coincidentally, this document has not been provided  on the Institute website though is purported to have been adopted by Examination Committee during January 2012 and effective from May 2012 examinations. 

These impugned guidelines are illogical, arbitrary and work against the spirit of The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 that aims to ensure equal opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full participation of persons with disabilities since they insist the following conditions among others:
  1. The writer should not be above 20 years of age as on the date of commencement of a particular examination for which the writer’s assistance would be utilized by a candidate (for instance 02nd May 2012 for May 2012 CA Examinations)
  2. The writer should be the same person for all the papers of an examination and no request for change of writer shall be permitted.
  3. The writer should not be a relative of the candidate for whom he / she is acting as a writer.
The students with disabilities are in shock as they can not meet such arbitrary guidelines forced upon them. However, most students are not willing to come openly  against the institute for fear of a backlash which may spoil their career.

None of the earlier guideline (for 2007 or 2010 exams) which are available on the ICAI’s website at link: do not contain any of such arbitrary and illogical conditions. The conditions put forth are unreasonable & discriminatory against persons with disabilities and defy the objective and mandate of the Disabilities Act.

I have been approached by several students who have failed to find writers below the age of 20 and are most likely to fall in to trap of missing their examinations despite their good preparation for the same.

Also since this is an exam season and most teen-aged students who may be eligible to act as writer as per the eligibility condition put forth by the new guideline,  are busy in their exams hence it is next to impossible to meet such a unreasonable guideline. Moreover, the relatives have been barred from acting as a writer. I am wondering as to who would then come forward to help (even at a cost!) to write for them. They are bound to fail due to lack of level playing field!

The condition that write should be same for all the papers spread over a length of period is also a detrimental to the interest of the examinee  since the teenager, who may agree to write the exam for the disabled student may have his own exam clashing. Then most students in graduation second or third year are more than 20 years.

Such attitude with the students with disabilities is an open discrimination and a discouragement for them to enroll for the course and not only is against the mandate of the Disabilities Act but also Article 14 of the Constitution of India that ensures equality to all. The names of the students have been withheld on their request since they fear revengeful action on the part of ICAI.

I have taken up the matter with the Chief Commissioner- Disabilities and hope that good sense will prevail over the ICAI and they would withdraw the unreasonable guideline.

If you remember, recently, several organisations working for the Persons with disabilities in India (especially Low Vision and Blind), to which I have been a party myself, have suggested an exhaustive document titled "Uniform Guidelines for Conducting Examinations (Practicals and/or Theory) for Blind and Low Vision Persons". These have been sent to Ministry of Social Justice for their acceptance. In all probability these would be accepted since the content is the revised edition of the draft guidelines discussed in the Meeting of the State Commissioners Disabilities in the year 2008, if I correctly remember hence has a principal approval from the authorities.

I suggest the ICAI to accept these guidelines in toto for implementation in all their examinations (including the one in May 2012) and take a lead in being the first progressive and disabled friendly institution of the Government of India.

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate- Disability Rights