The Delhi High Court has held that the Board of Discipline under the Chartered Accountants Act 1949 can proceed against a Chartered Accountant for acts of sexual harassment committed by him outside his professional capacity.
The finding was delivered in the case Lalit Agrawal vs Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and other, which was a writ petition filed by a CA, against whom disciplinary proceedings were initiated after noting that the a police charge-sheet was filed against him in relation to a crime of sexual harassment.
The petitioner contended that the professional body cannot start proceedings in respect of the alleged crime which was committed beyond his professional capacity.
The ICAI pointed out that Part IV of the First Schedule to the Act lists out other misconduct, which included any act which brings disrepute to the profession or the Institute as a result of his action whether or not related to his professional work.
Disagreeing with the petitioner's contention, Justice Vibhu Bakhru held :
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 judge proceeded to observe :
If a Chartered Accountant is found to have been guilty in outraging the modesty of a woman and/or other offences involving moral turpitude, it would not be inapposite for the Board of Discipline to also conclude that the conduct did, in fact, lower the dignity of the profession.
The Court followed the recent SC decision delivered last November, which upheld disciplinary action against a CA, who had committed irregularities in respect of transfer of shares of a company. There, the SC had rejected the contention of the CA that the alleged misconduct cannot be a ground for disciplinary action under the CA Ac as it was not related to professional work. The SC upheld the finding of the Board of Discipline that the act made him unworthy of being a CA.