'Being Blind Need Not Destroy One's Dreams', Says Madras HC While Holding MCI'S New Regulations For Disabled As Discriminatory

Madurai Bench of Madras High Court directed for allotment of the medical seat to petitioner, who is physically challenged and has a benchmark disability of visual impairment. Petitioner namely J. Vibin had qualified National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) in disability quota.

Bench of two women justices' Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and Justice T. Krishnavalli was hearing a writ appeal in The State of Tamil Nadu v. J. Vibin. It quoted Hellen Keller, "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision" while granting relief to Vibin. The writ appeal was preferred against the order of a single judge which had given direction in favour of petitioner Vibin.

Background

J. Vibin, a minor student represented by his father, is physically challenged, having "benchmark disability" of visual impairment to an extent of 75% as per certificate issued to him by Government of Tamil Nadu. He has secured the requisite marks in the qualifying examinations and participated in NEET examination and ranked 285 on All India basis under the category of physically challenged persons. Subsequently, he participated in the online counselling, got selected and was allotted to the Government Pudukottai Medical College Hospital in MBBS course as per the allotment order generated online on 01.08.2018. When he went to the college, he was informed that since his selection is under Physically Handicapped (PH) category, he is required to produce Disability Certificate from one of the Disability Assessment Boards constituted at any one of the four metro cities, i.e., Madras Medical College, Park Town, Chennai within the stipulated time i.e., before 08.08.2018.

Accordingly, he appeared before the Special Medical Board approved by the Medical Council of India at the Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Egmore, Chennai, and it was certified that he is suffering from Visual Impairment and possess Congenital Anomaly-Both Eyes and the percentage of visual disability is 90 % and hence he is not eligible for admission in Medical/Dental Courses as per the Medical Council of India norms. In view of the high degree of disability suffered by him, it was notified that the he was not eligible to the said medical course. Accordingly, he was denied the Medical seat in the respondent college, which was impugned in the writ petition.

After considering the materials placed before the writ Court, the learned Single Judge allowed the writ petition on 20.09.2018 holding that the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act is benevolent in nature and therefore, the authorities concerned ought to have given positive thrust in implementing the objective of the enactment and also that the denial of admission to Vibin cannot be countenanced in law, as the same is contrary to the specific provisions of the PWD Act.

The learned Single Judge directed the Secretary Selection Committee, Directorate of Medical education and The Government Pudukottai Medical College Hospital to accept the certificate issued by the MMC categorizing Vibin as the person suffering from 90% disability and implement the allotment already made in the respondent college and in the event, the said seat is filled up, a direction was issued to allot a seat to him in any other college in the State of Tamil Nadu. Challenging the order of the learned Single Judge, the appellants/respondents approached the present court by way of writ appeal.

Recent MCI Guidelines Unfair

Court said that "Regulations on Graduate Medical Education (Amendment), 2019" made by Medical Council of India which say that the student with less than 40% of disability is eligible for Medical Course but not eligible under Persons with Disability Quota; and when the disability level is Equal to or More than 40% Disability they are not eligible for Medical Course at all, are unfair, discriminatory and unlawful be that in light of Rights of Persons With Disability Act, 2016 or the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Court said that intention behind the passage of PWD Act, 2016 (which came into force in 2017) was to move from a charity approach to a right-based approach and safeguard the human rights of the Persons with Disabilities. It said rejecting Vibin on the basis of percentage of disability is abhorrent to the principles enshrined in the Constitution of India and the provisions of the PWD Act.

Being Blind Need Not Destroy One's Dreams

Quoting the example of Dr.Y.G.Parameshver, who was the first Indian Blind Doctor from Karnataka to win several awards, Court said that it seems to be a difficult struggle for these blind men to achieve what they want. That Vibin is not the first blind Doctor and he can learn from the experiences of others like him. Being blind need not destroy one's dreams.

"The competency of a Doctor with disability cannot be assumed, as unless it is experienced one may not understand the same. If a person with visual impairment is already a Doctor, it shall be possible for a blind person to be a Doctor."

Court also took note of the hospitals in the country not being disabled-friendly. It also said that it is painful to note that no time allowance is given to persons with disabilities and they crack this tough competitive examination along with and at par with others.

MCI Regulations Discriminatory

Court termed MCI regulations denying reasonable accommodation as discriminatory. It said that the MCI guidelines did not foresee the emotional impact of studying medicine with disabilities. Candidates with learning disabilities or any other disability should not be barred from entering the field of medicine. The principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and PWD Act should be followed in their letter and spirit.

Court noted further that the arbitrary sudden and unreasoned amendment to the notification is violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India and also the doctrine of legitimate expectation. The subsequent amendment should not operate to the prejudice of the persons with disabilities, particularly, when the person had qualified and cleared the eligibility criteria.

"In fact, in the case on hand, the first respondent/petitioner was given the benefit of joining the medical course in the ensuing academic year by the writ court and the same cannot be curtailed by any reason whatsoever, which is unsustainable in the eye of law and thrashing out his legitimate expectation."

Court also said that MCI notification would operate prospectively and cannot be given retrospective effect.

Court besides other judgments placed reliance on the judgment of Supreme Court in Purswani Ashutosh (Minor) through Dr.Kamlesh Virumal Purswani Vs Union of India reported in 2018 SCC OnLine which was on similar lines.

Writ appeal was dismissed by the court and order of single judge which had given relief to the petitioner was not interfered with. Court also gave a parting message to petitioner Vibin applauding his tireless efforts in becoming a medical practitioner and also wished him best for his future endeavours.

Petitioner Vibin was represented by advocate M. Ajmal Khan in the case and appellants were represented by AAG K. Chellapandian assisted by the J. Padmavathi Devi.

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