New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar has directed that two students suffering from congenital colour vision deficiency (CCVD) be admitted to the MBBS course run by the Tripura Medical College and Dr.B.R. Ambedkar Memorial Teaching Hospital, West Tripura, for the academic year 2018-19, “reducing the quota from the year by two seats”.
The students, Pranay Kumar Poddar and Sagar Bhowmik, had secured 112 and 140 ranks respectively in the all India entrance test conducted by the Tripura government in the pre-NEET era. Both the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the college had objected to their admission now, as they had not cleared the NEET. The Supreme Court, however, overruled their objections, saying they need not clear the NEET test to secure their admissions, in view of their ranks earlier.
The bench issued its order on September 12, despite serious objections from the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the college, by invoking its powers under Article 142 of the constitution. The “transcendental importance of justice”, the court said, writ large in this case. The order was uploaded on the Supreme Court’s website only on Friday (September 22).
Article 142 (1) of the constitution enables the Supreme Court to
pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.
The two students were first declared ineligible for admission at the counselling stage in 2015, on the grounds that they suffered from partial colour blindness. They first challenged the denial of admission to them before the Tripura high court, saying that the MCI had not framed any regulation debarring them from seeking admission.
The two students then appealed against the high court’s decision in the Supreme Court, contending that the denial of admission to them constituted a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equality. They also told the Supreme Court though their senior counsel K.V. Vishwanathan that CCVD is not a disability under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
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On March 23, the court directed the MCI to constitute an expert committee comprising its representatives and experts from genetics, ophthalmology, psychiatry and medical education from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. The court asked the committee to suggest changes in the medical course, keeping in mind international practices.
The committee said that testing of CCVD using the Ishihara test should be compulsorily incorporated in the general physical examination of a student, so that all medical students with difficulties in colour vision can be aware of severity of their deficiency before entering the medical course and learn about the kind of problems it may pose in the career they have opted. The committee concluded that while colour blindness has been dealt with adequately as an impediment, CCVD does not pose an embargo of any kind whatsoever.
Following the committee’s report, the MCI assured the Supreme Court that students suffering from CCVD would be permitted to undertake the examination and be admitted to MBBS courses. However, the MCI’s counsel, Vikas Singh, contended that certain guidelines must be framed in accordance with the report of the committee for controlling the speciality and super-speciality courses as far as CCVD-affected students are concerned. “There shall be some guidelines also pertaining to practice,” he told the court on September 12.