NEET qualified students with ‘low vision’ can pursue MBBS course: SC

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NEW DELHI: In a significant order, the Supreme Court has allowed a person suffering from ‘low vision’, a disability in which the eyesight cannot be corrected or improved, to pursue the MBBS course and treat patients. The top court allowed a student to pursue MBBS on the ground that he has cleared the 2018 National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-UG) in the category of Persons with Disability. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee held that the petitioner “cannot be denied admission to the MBBS course if he qualifies as per his merit in the category of Persons with Disability.
In the event, the petitioner is found to be entitled to admission, he shall be given admission in the current academic year 2018-19”.
In a related development on September 24 last year, the top court, in a landmark move, had opened the doors for colour-blind students to pursue MBBS course by ordering admission of two such candidates, who had scored high marks in the entrance examination. Last week, in the case filed by the student suffering from ‘low vision’, the court found inconsistencies in a report of an expert committee of Medical Council of India (MCI), which had held that persons with visual impairment of 40 per cent or more could not be admitted to the undergraduate medical course.
The court sought an opinion from a team of experts of three senior members of the ophthalmic department. The experts opined that the visual disability of the petitioner was within the benchmark of the Disabilities Act, but said he was not suitably fit to undertake the MBBS course as per the MCI requirements. They however did not disclose the reasons for their opinion that the petitioner was not fit to pursue MBBS, the bench said.
As per provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, a “person with benchmark disability” means “a person with not less than 40 per cent of a specified disability where specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with disability where specified disability has been defined in measurable terms, as certified by the certifying authority”. The court said the Medical Education Regulations framed under Section 33 of the Medical Council Act, 1956 which dealt with disability have statutory force and are binding on the MCI.
“The Committee having opined that the petitioner suffers from a benchmark disability, its view with regard to the suitability of the petitioner for the MBBS course cannot override the Medical Education Regulations,” the court said.
It said the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, read with the Medical Education Regulations clearly provides for reservation of seats in the MBBS course for persons like the petitioner with specified benchmark disability of low vision. Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for MCI, contended that the disability act would not apply to admission to a medical college for the MBBS course. He said the provisions of the act is not attracted in case of MCI, since it only provides for reservation to higher educational institutions and not to technical institutions imparting technical education.
The court said these arguments appeared fallacious as higher educational institution was a generic term which would include institutions imparting all kinds of higher education, including technical education.
The student, Purswani Ashutosh, had filed the petition through a doctor and advocate Govind Jee challenging denial of admission in MBBS course. He had contended that there was already a provision for reservation of five per cent seats of total intake capacity in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
He had said he had appeared for NEET UG examination 2018 under physically handicapped category and scored all India rank of 4,68,982 and category physically handicapped rank as 419.