The Companies Act, 1913 passed in pre-independent India prescribed various books which had to be maintained by a Company registered under that Act. It also required the appointment of a formal Auditor with prescribed qualifications to audit such records. In order to act as an auditor a person had to acquire a restricted certificate from the local government upon such conditions as may be prescribed.
The holder of a restricted certificate was allowed to practice only within the province of issue and in the language specified in the restricted certificate. In 1918 a course called Government Diploma in Accountancy was launched in Bombay (now known as Mumbai). On passing this diploma and completion of three years of articled training under an approved accountant, a person was held eligible for grant of an unrestricted certificate. This certificate entitled the holder to practice as an auditor throughout India. Later on the issue of restricted certificates was discontinued in the year 1920.
In the year 1930 it was decided that the Government of India should maintain a register called the Register of Accountants. Any person whose name was entered in such register was called a Registered Accountant. Later on a board called the Indian Accountancy Board was established to advise the Governor General of India on accountancy and the qualifications for auditors. However it was felt that the accountancy profession was largely unregulated, and this caused lots of confusion as regards the qualifications of auditors. Hence in the year 1948, just after independence in 1947, an expert committee was created to look into the matter. This expert committee recommended that a separate autonomous association of accountants should be formed to regulate the profession. The Government of India accepted the recommendation and passed the Chartered Accountants Act in 1949 even before India became a republic. Under section 3 of the said Act, ICAI is established as a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal.
Unlike most other commonwealth countries, the word chartered does not refer to a royal charter, since India is a republic. At the time of passing the Chartered Accountants Act, various titles used for similar professionals in other countries were considered, such as Certified Public Accountant. However, many accountants had already acquired membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and other Chartered Societies of Great Britain and were practising as Chartered Accountants. This had created some sort of brand value. This designation inherited a public impression that Chartered Accountants had better qualifications than Registered Accountants. Hence the accountants were very stern in their stand that, the Indian accountancy professionals should be designated only as Chartered Accountants. After much debate in the Indian Constituent Assembly, the controversial term, chartered was accepted. When the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 came into force on 1st July 1949, the term Chartered Accountant superseded the title of Registered Accountant.