ICAI yanks off gag order, probe advisory against CAs

Mumbai, Dec 10 (IANS) Hours after The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) issued a gag order on CAs asking them not to criticise government policy on demonetisation, and instituted a probe against some of them for “professionial misconduct”, the advisory was yanked off its official website here on Saturday.

A top ICAI official — declining to be named — said there were some objections from members on the advisory issued on Friday by ICAI President M. Devaraja Reddy, after which it was removed.

The advisory carried on its website said notices had been slapped on four chartered accountants for their “alleged acts of professional misconduct” following demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1,000 notes.

“The members are strictly advised not to indulge in any nefarious act to subvert the intentions of the government in any remote possible way,” Reddy’s advisory said.

It also sought to put a gag order on the CAs. “The members are also advised not to share/write any negative personal views by way of an article or interview on any platform regarding demonetisation,” it said.

On Saturday, a leading Mumbai RTI activist, Anil Galgali, who tweeted on the ethics behind the advisory’s aim to stop criticism of note ban was also blocked by the ICAI from its twitter handle.

“They don’t want to listen to any criticism. Probably, some politicians may have objected, as they are advised by their CAs on how to manage stashed illegal funds. Instead of heeding to fair criticism, ICAI resorts to crushing it,” an indignant Galgali told IANS.

He wondered whether the so-called advisory would still be effective after its erasure from the ICAI site.

On Friday, Reddy had said that three CAs — whose identity had not been revealed — had been served notice under the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 and Chartered Accountants (Procedure of Investigations of Professional and Other Misconduct and Conduct of Cases) Rules 2007.

Apart from these three, two more cases were also in process for initiating similar disciplinary action by the ICAI, Reddy said.

In one case, the ICAI has sought information from Principal Commissioner of the Income Tax Department in Pune.

In another case, the details had been solicited from the Income Tax Department in Ahmedabad while the ICAI has sought information from a private television channel, News18 India, in a third case.

“It is a matter of grave concern and distress to our profession when certain news reports/video clippings have come in the public eye depicting certain CAs indulging in such acts of illegality which go against the efforts of the government in eradicating corruption and black money from business and commercial transactions,” Reddy said in his sharp advisory to the ICAI members.

Reddy urged the CAs to work towards the best interest of the nation in keeping with true spirit of the principle of ICAI — ‘Partner in Nation Building’.

ICAI, a statutory body set up by an act of parliament, has over 250,000 members as fellows or associates with more than half in full-time practice.

Maximum number of members hails from western India while eastern India accounts for the lowest membership of ICAI.