Del HC | Board of Discipline, ICAI has jurisdiction to entertain complaints that tend to bring disrepute to the profession or Institute

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Vibhu Bakhru, J., while pronouncing a decision in respect to determining the jurisdiction of “Board of Discipline of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India” stated that,

Court is unable to accept the contention that Board of Discipline does not have the jurisdiction to examine the alleged misconduct. Clause (2) of Part-IV of the First Schedule to the Act is wide, and would include within its scope, any conduct that would tend to bring disrepute to the profession or the Institute.”

The matrix of facts in the present case is that the petitioner is a Chartered Accountant (CA) and a member of ICAI who has filed the present petition impugning the decision of the Board of Discipline of ICAI. Board had expressed its prima facie opinion of the Director (Discipline) that the petitioner was not guilty of “other misconduct” falling within the meaning of Clause 2 of Part IV of the First Schedule to the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949.

Petitioner had submitted that allegations against him have no bearing with him carrying the profession as a Chartered Accountant and therefore, the Board and/or ICAI would have no jurisdiction to entertain a complaint in that regard.

ICAI commenced the proceedings in regard to the complaints filed by Respondent 2 alleging that petitioner had outraged the modesty of his daughter, i.e. HA along with certain other offences under the Penal Code, 1860. An incident of harassment in 2004 took place for which HA had lodged a complaint and for which the petitioner’s statement stated that, “would not go to the street on which HA’s residence was located and would neither speak to her nor obstruct her while she was on her way”.  Petitioner still repeated the offence twice. Further, the petitioner continued to harass HA by threatening and defaming her and once dragging her in an attempt to get her inside his car. Thereafter, Respondent 2 lodged a complaint with ICAI for initiating disciplinary proceedings against the petitioner.

Director (Discipline)’s Stand

Director (Discipline), ICAI concluded the allegations levelled against petitioner relate to inter-personal relationships between HA and petitioner, thus, it would be appropriate if Respondent 2 sought redressal of the problems in another forum. Allegations did not necessarily fall within the disciplinary mechanism in respect of professional or other misconduct as provided under the Act and Rules framed thereunder.

Conclusion

The Bench stated that, as is apparent from the plain language of Part IV of First Schedule to the Act, the expression ‘other misconduct’ includes any conduct, which brings disrepute to the profession or the ICAI as a result of an action whether or not related to professional work. Thus, it is not necessary that misconduct complained should be a conduct in exercise of the profession of Chartered Accountancy. Conduct, which tends to bring disrepute, would be a subject matter of proceedings under Chapter V of the Act.

Thus, the Court was unable to accept that the proceedings before the Board of Discipline are without jurisdiction. Further while concluding its decision, it stated that the Board of Discipline has no jurisdiction to sentence the petitioner, but it would be erroneous to contend that the Board of Discipline does not have jurisdiction to examine the allegations made against the petitioner, in the context of determining whether the petitioner is guilty of other misconduct as defined under Part-IV of the Schedule-I of the Act.

Therefore, Court refrained from expressing any opinion on the merits of the complaint as the question of other misconduct was yet to be decided by the Board of Discipline. Also if the petitioner is found guilty, he has the remedy of an appeal before the Appellate Authority under Section 22-G of the Act. [Lalit Agrawal v. ICAI, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6960, decided on 11-02-2019]

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