The Supreme Court will on Monday urgently hear a petition vital to the rights of nearly five lakh chartered accountancy (CA) students slated to take their exams between July 29 and August 16 amid an exponential surge of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

A three-judge virtual Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar will examine the petition filed by the India Wide Parents Association, represented by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, which has primarily challenged the “opt-out” scheme announced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on June 15 and 20.

The scheme allows students to opt out of the exam. Their exam would be deemed to be cancelled. They would lose their chance.

The petition said the scheme discriminates against students living in remote areas or containment zones. Due to the restrictions, they would be forced to opt out unlike their counterparts living in urban areas.

Instead of the scheme, which is not pro-student, the petition said the ICAI should focus on increasing the number of exam centres. There should be one centre in every district.

The petition sought greater COVID-19 safety measures to be put in place, including an increase in the number of examination centres so that students need not have to travel far and wide to take their exams.

About 4.67 lakh students are scheduled to appear at 259 centres in India and five centres overseas.

“Considering the fact that there are 739 districts, it is apparent that the ICAI is conducting examinations in about 30% of the districts… This means students from the other 70% districts would be required to travel from their homes for long distances to appear in the examinations. This will put their lives in immense threat,” the petition pointed out.

The parents have also sought free transportation and accommodation for students as well as e-passes for aspirants coming from the containment zones.

They said the ICAI should ideally postpone the exams till the situation becomes normal.

The CA exams were originally scheduled for May but postponed due to the lockdown.

The exams are held in two cycles in November and May. They are recognised in India and abroad. Those who qualify can practice both in India and abroad.

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