10 Feb 2023 4:26 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh to constitute a Medical Board to examine the suitability of a candidate with speech and language disability for MBBS admission.The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala was hearing a petition challenging the...
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh to constitute a Medical Board to examine the suitability of a candidate with speech and language disability for MBBS admission.
The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala was hearing a petition challenging the 2019 Amendment to the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 to the extent that it precludes candidates with speech and language benchmark disability (quantified at 40% or above) from availing reservation and taking admission in MBBS courses. As per the regulations, the petitioner, who had 55% speech disability had been denied admission in medical colleges.
In the last hearing the top court had asked the National Medical Council to form an expert committee to relook into the regulations.
During Friday’s hearing, the Counsel appearing for the Union informed the court at the beginning of the hearing that the expert committee report was now on record before the court.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal appearing for the Petitioner submitted, “There is nothing in the expert committee report that says I can’t complete the course.”
The Bench orally remarked, “That’s the little concern because the expert committee has said that the speech defect should not be more than 40%.”
Agrawal then replied, “Last year is gone. My suggestion is let her be examined by a medical board irrespective of the regulations independently. If they feel that she can continue her course then she may be granted admission for the next academic year.
The Bench responded and said, “We can do that. Where is she based? Whom should we say?”
Agrawal answered, “Haryana, my lords. The bench could order anybody, AIIMS, Maulana Azad Medical College, etc.”
The Bench was then pleased to order, “The petitioner has been denied into the MBBS degree course on the ground that she has a speech and language requirement of 55%. At this stage, before the court has to embark upon the legal issues involved, it will be appropriate to examine whether resolution can be found out of the situation in a manner which subserve the interest of justice. We accordingly direct that the petitioner may be examined by a medical board constituted by the director of the PGIMER Chandigarh. The Board upon examining the petitioner with reference to her speech and language requirement submit a report on whether the petitioner would be in a position to pursue the studies for the MBBS degree program. The report may be submitted within a period of one month. The constitution of the medical board by the director PGMIER shall also constitute one of the specialist particularly having domain knowledge particularly in the area of the disability faced by the petitioner.”
As per the impugned regulation, disability quantified at 39% or below makes one eligible for reservation, but for 40% or beyond there is neither provision for reservation nor for taking admission. The blanket ban is assailed for being disproportionate. The petition argues that the notification stands in clear derogation of the rights of persons with disability contemplated in Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 as well as mandates under the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007. The petition also claims that the determination of disability set out as cut-off is also without any scientific basis and is thus arbitrary, and discriminatory. It contends that the petitioner has been excluded from pursuing her medical education only because her speech defect is in excess of 40%, and she does not suffer from intellectual or physical disability. Reliance is placed on the judgment of the Apex Court in Vikash Kumar v. UPSC to argue on 'reasonable accommodation' to persons with disability. The petition also relies on doctrines of Progressive Realisation of Rights and Non-retrogression as elucidated in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
The petition beseeches the Bench to invoke jurisdiction under Article 142 and allow her to pursue MBBS course in the allocated seat under reserved seats for persons with benchmark disabilities.
On 19.04.2017, the Right of Person with Disabilities Act, 2016 came into force. A report was submitted by experts to the Medical Council of India (now NMC) with respect to formulation of guidelines for admission of persons with specified disabilities. The report suggested that the persons with 40% or above speech and language disability should not be eligible to be admitted to a medical course. Thereafter, the 2019 Amendment was made to the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 in tune with the suggestions of the experts. On 26.10.2021, the petitioner was issued her disability certificate and he appeared for NEET UG 2021. Subsequently, after assessment of disability and eligibility for admission to the MBBS course, the petitioner was allocated a seat at Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College, Karnal, Haryana. She made the requisite deposits. On 14.03.2022, a disability certificate was issued declaring her a person with benchmark disability. She was declared ineligible for admission as per the 2019 amendment. Re-verification exercise was also taken up, but there was no change in her disability status. A petition was filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court praying for granting her admission to the allocated seat; representations were also made to the concerned authorities. The High Court directed the said authority to consider her representation. It yielded no results, as the authority merely re-affirmed her ineligibility. Another writ was filed before the High Court which was eventually withdrawn without the consent of the petitioner.
Case Title: Vibhushita Sharma v UOI & Ors W.P.(C) No. 793/2022
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