New Delhi: The Delhi government-run Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University has joined the list of institutions that have been depriving persons with disabilities (PwDs) of their right to secure admission in medical courses on the basis of the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
Despite the Supreme Court just earlier this month noting that “it is the duty of every institution to extend helping hand in its command to the disabled persons” and directing the constitution of a medical board by Chhattisgarh to examine a Sruchi Rathore, a girl with thalassemia, who was denied admission in a medical course, the case of Digant Jain, another thalassemic person, bears a stark resemblance to the insensitivity of authorities concerned towards disability and extending the rights which have been accorded by the constitution to them.
Supreme Court norms
In Sruchi Rathore versus Union of India, the apex court had on August 18 directed the Medical Council of India to respond to the larger issue of denial of admissions to PwDs within eight weeks. It had also directed that Rathore be admitted to the MBBS course after due counseling within a week.
Appearing for Rathore, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan had submitted that she “should be considered as a person with disability for the purpose of admission to any medical stream.” That apart, he also contended that under the 2016 Act, 5% of the seats for the persons with benchmark disability are required to be reserved and the statutory command needed to be followed in letter and spirit.
Noting that this legislation was a “great welfare measures,” the court had said that “it is the duty of everyone to see that the provisions are carried out with quite promptitude.”
But despite such clear instructions from the highest court of the land, the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University denied admission to another thallasemic student while ignoring its directives.
PwD student still had to seek HC intervention
The student, Jain, then moved the Delhi High court for relief. In this case the petitioner was a thalassemic patient and a person with a disability as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. He had appeared in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) examination and qualified in March 2017 in the general category.
Taking up the matter on August 28, the high court said at the time when the petitioner had appeared for his NEET examination, the new Act had not been notified. The new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which was promulgated in December 2016, was only notified in April 2017.
However, on learning about the new legislation, which was in favour of the petitioner, Jain had applied for this change from general category to PWD. This was granted to him as is evident from the result of the NEET which had notified that the petitioner falls in the PWD category.
However, when the counselling session ended on August 28, the petitioner pointed out that while he had already attended counseling sessions scheduled for July 23, August 12 and August 28, there appeared to be no seats in the MBBS course in any of the colleges of the respondent university.
While taking on record the order of the Supreme Court in the Sruchi Rathore versus Union of India and others case, Justice Indermeet Kaur noted “with pain that all this has happened for the fault” of the respondent who despite knowing that the petitioner was a person with disability did not care to do anything to the representation of the petitioner.
The high court also took cognizance of the submission of the other respondents that “all persons holding PWD certificate shall be eligible for reservation in Delhi as also for sets outside Delhi in terms of the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.”
Incidentally, all across the country, students with disabilities are being denied benefits under the new disabilities rights Act when it comes to admission in medical colleges through NEET.
One of the most striking case has been that of Yukesh S., the son of a farmer and a teacher from Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu, who not only secured the second rank in the ‘Physically Handicapped OBC’ category.
He did not attend the engineering counsel because he was quite sure of making it through medical counseling. But when he walked into the counseling, the panel was surprised and questioned him about his disability, as it was not apparent and visible to the naked eye.
Yukesh, who suffers from a bleeding disorder, ultimately got through and is now interested in pursuing research in genetics.
Despite SC order and directions, things have not changed
As RTI and disability rights activist Satendra Singh, who is also an associate professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Science and GTB Hospital in Delhi, said, “Despite notification of the Act on April 19, 2017 and a Supreme Court order on April 25, 2017, in the case of Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation vs Union of India and Another which directed the chief secretaries and state commissioner (disabilities) of all states/UT to submit a compliance report on the implementation of the new disability Act by August 16, 2017, things have not changed.”
He said the apex court had even reminded the governments and their institutions that “they must realise that under this Act, their responsibilities have increased and the executing authorities must give effect to it with ‘quite promptitude.'”
As for the Medical Council of India, he questioned why despite having faced so many cases from doctors with disabilities it has never bothered to include a doctor with disability on any of its committees.