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: http://220.227.161.86/26540exam15942.pdf. 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: http://www.icai.org/new_post.html?post_id=639 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.


regards,
Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate- Disability Rights

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