Contempt Notice to ICAI

In the latest news, ICAI is served a contempt notice on 21st July, 2019 by two lawyers, Adv. Paras Jain and Adv. Kumar Shanu. The notice is served requesting ICAI to follow the law laid down by the Supreme Court of India with regard to providing Students copies of their Answer-scripts under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. And we are here to decode what does this notice to ICAI mean and how does it concern you.

Contempt Notice to ICAI - what is it?

The fee charged by ICAI for providing the certified copies to students is INR 500. Whereas Rule 4 of the RTI Rules, 2012 has prescribed the following fees for obtaining information-

  1. INR 10/- for the RTI application, under this cost inspection may be allowed and
  2. INR 2 per page for obtaining documents.

So, the candidates coming from a financially weaker background sometimes couldn’t afford it. If the rules of RTI were followed, all the candidates could afford it. This is the battle Adv. Paras Jain and Adv. Kumar Shanu are fighting. The right to use The Right to Information Act.

What will happen if ICAI doesn’t respond to notice?

As mentioned in the letter, if ICAI doesn’t follow the rules of RTI or compels the students to follow ICAI’s rules instead, it shall be deemed as a Contempt of Court and necessary legal actions under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 against such officers will be taken accordingly.

Has this ever happened before?

Yes. The ruling of the case ‘CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors.’ laid down that every Public Authority conducting examination are required to allow its candidates to inspect and to obtain their answer-scripts as information as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and its rules made thereunder. 

Institute of Companies Secretaries of India (ICSI) Vs. Paras Jain, Civil Appeal No. 5665/2014

As per the letter, similar unfair practice was also adopted by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) and was challenged by Adv Paras Jain and Adv. Kumar Shanu. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through its Division Bench comprising Justice N.V. Ramana & Justice S. Abdul Nazeer in case titled Institute of Companies Secretaries of India (ICSI) Vs. Paras Jain, Civil Appeal No. 5665/2014 has held vide its order dated 11.04.2019 that:

  1. We are cognizant of the fact that guidelines of the appellant, framed by its statutory council, are to govern the modalities of its day-to-day concerns and to effectuate smooth functioning of its responsibilities under the Company Secretaries Act, 1980. The guidelines of the appellant may provide for much more than what is provided under the Right to Information Act, such as re-evaluation, retotaling of answer-scripts.
  2. Be that as it may, Guideline No. 3 of the appellant does not take away Rule 4, The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 which also entitles the candidates to seek inspection and certified copies of their answer-scripts. In our opinion, the existence of these two avenues is not mutually exclusive and it is up to the candidate to choose either of the routes. Thus, if a candidate seeks information under the provisions of the Right to Information, then payment has to be sought under the Rules therein.

How is it going to impact you as a student?

If ICAI responds positively to this Contempt Notice, the students will have two routes for them for obtaining the certified copies. Students could already obtain their certified copies through ICAI by paying a fee of INR 500. But after this, students can get the certified copies through Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 by paying a nominal fee as prescribed in Rule 4, The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005. As per the judgement passed in 2011, the charges for obtaining the answer sheet was fixed at Rs 2 per page. People below the poverty line would not be charged any amount. If followed, this will be a positive change and will enable the students of all backgrounds to obtain their certified copies.

Who are the lawyers who have issued the contempt notice to ICAI?

The young advocates fighting for the rights of students are Adv. Paras Jain and Adv. Kumar Shanu. They are part of the organization called WHIP - Whistle for Public Interest.

About WHIP

WHIP - Whistle for Public Interest is a platform for law students and young lawyers to put their advocacy skills to use in solving public issues. The organisation founded in 2015, works for promoting transparency and accountability in the affairs of public authorities in India. 

Advocate Paras Jain

Paras Jain is an advocate practising in Delhi. He is the co-founder of WHIP - Whistle for Public Interest. He is known for his legal battle against ICSI & CBSE for making Answer-Scripts as information available under RTI.

Courtesy: Paras Jain

Advocate Kumar Shanu

Kumar Shanu is an advocate and a social activist. He co-founded Whistle for Public Interest (WHIP). Currently, Shanu is studying international law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Following the footsteps of CBSE and ICSI, Delhi University has also implemented the Honourable Supreme Court's Landmark Judgement of following RTI Rules regarding the fee for answer scripts. We appeal The ICAI to follow the same and create a better atmosphere for its students.

Check Out | BREAKING NEWS: ICAI Copy Checking by Unauthorized Person

We'll keep you updated with the proceedings of this case. Stay Connected and meanwhile download the contempt notice sent to ICAI from here.

Prakriti Srivastava

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