MBBS Admission In PwD Quota - Disability Assessment Report Must Explain How Candidate Can't Pursue Course: Supreme Court

Update: 2023-09-22 14:15 GMT
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The Supreme Court on Friday (September 22) stated that persons with disabilities should not be excluded from MBBS courses merely on the basis of a quantitative assessment of their disabilities. The Court further stated that the assessment of the disabilities must have a cogent reasoning as to how such candidates will be unable to pursue the medical courses.The Court made these observations...

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The Supreme Court on Friday (September 22) stated that persons with disabilities should not be excluded from MBBS courses merely on the basis of a quantitative assessment of their disabilities. The Court further stated that the assessment of the disabilities must have a cogent reasoning as to how such candidates will be unable to pursue the medical courses.

The Court made these observations while expressing dissatisfaction with the reports submitted to it by the Medical Board constituted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences assessing the disabilities of two candidates.  The Court noted the reports primarily focused on quantitatively assessing the extent of disability and lacked the detailed evaluation and reasoning required to hold that the candidates were incapable of pursuing medical courses. Therefore, the Court directed the AIIMS Director to issue a clarificatory note and submit elaborate reasoning within a week. 

A bench comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar was dealing with writ petitions filed by four candidates under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking MBBS admissions in 2023-24 in the the Persons with Disabilities quota. They had approached the Court after the disability assessment panels under the Medical Board of Admission did not clear them. They sought implementation of the reservation for persons with benchmark disability as mandated by the Right to Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,  Earlier, on August 25, the Court had referred the petitioners for examination by an expert committee formed by the AIIMS.

The AIIMS committee cleared two petitioners but did not approve the admission of two others under the PwD quota. Expressing concern at the negative report of the AIIMS committee, the Court observed :

“This court is of the opinion that these reports only quantitatively assess or evaluate the extent of disability. In both cases, this court notices that the detailed evaluation aside from the quantification of disability is not reflected in reports. Reports are bereft of any reasoning that impelled the experts to say these candidates are not capable of pursuing medical courses. How impediments they suffer would impede or prevent them from pursuing the courses they wish to study? The court is conscious that some of the conditions like webbed neck are not usual or usually understood disabilities, yet in the absence of any elaboration or reasoning, one is left wondering why these candidates who are fairly capable of pursuing rigorous academics and a level of attainment would not be able to do so.”

To maintain transparency, fairness and in the interest of justice, the Court directed :

The director of AIIMS ensure a further clarificatory note based on the evaluation conducted by expert committees and elaborate reasoning shall be furnished within a week".

The Court further directed that two seats shall be specifically earmarked amongst the quota of Persons with Disabilities and shall not be filled till the next day of hearing.

It also added that the expert shall also take into account advances including recent developments in medical and other sciences while considering whether such candidates can pursue the courses.   

Background facts

One petitioner suffered from locomotor disability. It is pertinent to note that in order to claim reservation under section 32 of the Act, one must suffer from a specific disability of a minimum of 40%. He had a medical certificate from a civil hospital, Surat certifying that he had a 40% disability and suffered from congenital UL deformity. However, the medical admission board assessed his disability at 80% on 27.7.2023 and he was diagnosed with Kyphoscoliosis deformity, webbed neck, right UL significant weakness, right wrist dorsiflexion weakness, and shoulder weakness.The Medical Board in its appeal also confirmed the findings and the petition was declared not eligible for a medical course.

Senior Advocate Ajit Kumar Sinha appearing on behalf of the petitioner contended that the National Medical Commission had issued a notification in 2019 that provided the disability range and the eligibility. 

The petitioner submitted in his plea, “In the case of Locomotor disability, including specified disabilities a candidate within the disability range of 40 % to 80 % may be considered eligible for the medical course as well as eligible for PwD quota, provided both the hands are intact, with intact sensation, sufficient strength and range of motion". Therefore, the rejection is based on a narrowed and exclusionary interpretation of NMC Regulations and is violative of Art 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.

The petitioner relied on the order passed in Vibhushita Sharma v. Union of India & Ors.(2023) where in a case of a candidate suffering from 55 % speech and language impairment, the Supreme Court had ordered a re-examination of the petitioner’s disability and her suitability to pursue the medical course, by the Medical Board at PGI, Chandigarh.

The second petitioner, who was not cleared by the AIIMS panel, was a candidate with cerebral palsy. Two other candidates, who were having low vision of 40% and 60% respectively, were cleared by the AIIMS panel for being treated as Persons with Disabilities. With respect to them, the Court issued a directive that counseling authorities must treat these individuals as persons with disabilities and consider their claims for admissions having regard to their performance and other factors.

Also Read - Mental Illness No Bar To Pursue MBBS Course If NEET-UG Is Qualified : National Medical Commission Tells Supreme Court

 Case title: Bambhaniya Sagar Vasharambhai v. Union Of India W.P.(C) No. 856/2023, Gaurav v. union of India  SLP C 18017/2023 [Cases where AIIMS committee has been asked to issue reasons]; Rohit Kumar Singh v. Union of India WPC 788/2023 and Sahil Arsh v. Union of India, WPC 782/2023 [Cases cleared by the AIIMS commitee]

Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 841

For petitioner: Sr Adv Ajit Kumar Sinha, AOR Govind Jee

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