ICAI Warns Students, Members Against ‘Highly Objectionable’ Social Media Posts

Chartered accountants to face misconduct proceedings if ICAI finds their social media posts hurt profession, institute.

The Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. company logos are seen on an advertising sign. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
The Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. company logos are seen on an advertising sign. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

ICAI has warned its professional members that some of their social media posts are “highly objectionable” and may have internal security, cross-border or geopolitical implications. While it’s not clear which tweets, likes or posts set off this warning, the accountancy regulator has indicated such commentary on social media would be construed as professional misconduct under the law.

In an advisory, published to its website on Feb. 11, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, that serves also as a regulator of the profession, said it came across “certain instances” where members and students have expressed professional or academic grievances on social media without first approaching the ICAI. Some have also written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the nodal body for ICAI, or higher forums. That’s not all, the posts could have internal and external security implications, the regulator has warned.

“Some of these posts are highly objectionable which have the potential to create social and communal disharmony, threatening peace, tranquility and may disrupt the security of the nation, public order and friendly relations with other nations.”

The advisory said any such post will be deemed to be a “other misconduct” under the Chartered Accountants Act. The Act empowers the ICAI council to reprimand a member, cancel his registration or impose a fine upto Rs 1 lakh if it thinks that the member’s activity—whether or not related to his professional work—causes disrepute to the accountancy profession or the regulator.

Similarly, students may lose their registration if they indulge in such activities, the regulator said.

How the institute seeks to regulate or surveil the social media commentary of over 8 lakh members and accountancy students is not clear. Nor does the Chartered Accountants Act offer any guidance on how the institute will assess if a post by a member or student is against national security or public order etc... It’s also not clear if the Act authorises the institute to take such action. ICAI has yet to respond to BloombergQuint’s queries.

Amarjit Chopra, former president of the ICAI and senior partner at GSA & Associates, said that while the advisory may have been issued with good intention, it would be very difficult for ICAI to regulate commentary on social media or define what constitutes disrepute to profession or disturbing communal harmony. There may be challenges in distinguishing whether an act of a person is in a personal or professional capacity, he said to BloombergQuint.

Members and students of the ICAI must be selective and careful of their words while expressing themselves on the social media, he said, adding that they should certainly show restraint.

Don’t bring disrepute to the profession or tarnish the image of the institute, cautions the ICAI advisory.