Mumbai: An 18- year-old boy with cerebral palsy had to recently move Bombay high court after having been denied the necessary certificate that would have made it possible for him to study to become a doctor – despite the fact that his disability is within pre-decided levels.
Manthan Sawai’s disability was assessed at 73%. However, he was recently denied an eligibility certificate by the state Disability Certification Board to pursue an MBBS course, even though the rule set a cap only at 80% disability.
The rejection meant he was ineligible to study medicine – something he had dreamt of all along.
The division bench of Justices A.S. Chandurkar and Anil Pansare accepted Manthan’s application and directed the board to grant him the appropriate certificate.
“Prima facie, the reason mentioned in the certificate of disability issued does not appear to be in consonance with the Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 1997 (amended in 2019),” the court observed.
Manthan subsequently secured admission in a state-run MBBS college in Dhule.
Manthan’s educational journey has not been easy. As a child, when his parents tried to secure him an admission in the local schools in Wani, a small town in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, he was sent away.
“The schools didn’t want to take responsibility for a child with a disability,” his mother Ashwini recalled. But his resolute parents didn’t give up. After pushing back and petitioning many government departments, Manthan managed to finally pursue formal education from class 4.
Manthan said he had decided he wanted to pursue medicine very early in life. He scored well both in classes 10 and 12. He scored 137 marks on the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the entrance test one requires to clear to pursue medicine.
The challenge, however, began when Manthan approached the Disability Certification Board at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Nagpur. Despite the fact that his disability was under the permissible 80% disability mark, he was denied approval.
“It was as if the officials couldn’t fathom that a boy with disability could enter a medical college,” he said.
The decision, he said, pushed him into the “dark”.
“I have, all along, dreamt of studying neurology and suddenly I was told I can’t because of the physical disability,” he told The Wire.
Manthan’s family, through their lawyer Nihalsingh Rathod, moved the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court in November.
“The Regulations of Graduate Medical Education, 1997, underwent an amendment in 2019 and a person with a disability assessed below 80% is eligible to seek admission in an MBBS course under this amended rule. The department, however, arbitrarily denied him clearance,” Rathod pointed out.
He said it was not as difficult to convince the court as it was to convince the certification board. Even after the court’s order, the board took weeks to issue his clearance certificate.
Now, Manthan, born in an Other Backward Class family of a small land-holding farmer, will have to move to another district for further studies. Since he needs support, his parents have decided to move to Dhule, nearly 500 kilometres from Wani. Both his parents have Master’s degrees and they are hoping to find jobs in a new city and support Manthan as he studies.
“We never considered that our child was inadequate. We ensured he gets the best available education and we will continue to do that in the future too,” said Ashwini.
She said Manthan should not have had it so difficult. The state, she said, should be welcoming of students facing difficulties like her son. “Even if the state failed us, the law had his back. We are just hoping that the court’s order proves helpful for more children like Manthan who have dreams,” she added.