In a petition that challenges the 2019 Amendment to the Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 insofar as it prevents applicants with speech and language benchmark disabilities (quantified at 40% or above) from qualifying for reservations and enrolling in MBBS programmes, the Supreme Court gave notice on Monday.

The petitioner’s attorney, Mr. Gaurav Agarwal, informed a Bench made up of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kohli that the challenged law violates the legal rights of a person with a baseline handicap who is, in essence, forbidden from getting a medical degree. In addition, the applicant was determined to have a persistent speech and language handicap caused by “Cleft Lip Palate Repair,” measured at 55%. According to him, people can grasp what she is saying 50% of the time and might not understand it 50% of the time. However, by using computer software, the same condition may be treated.

The National Medical Commission’s counsel was given notice by the bench, with a four-week return period. Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the petitioner’s first college seat assignment in Karnal was later revoked. The Judge regretted that the petitioner should have gone to the Apex Court sooner so that it could have used its authority under Article 142 to defend the admission.

According to the challenged rule, a disability measured at 39% or less qualifies for reservation, while a disability measured at 40% or above does not qualify for either reserve or admission. The broad restriction is criticised for being unjustified.

According to the petition, the notification clearly violates both the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007, and the rights of people with disabilities as envisioned by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The petition further asserts that the definition of impairment used as a cut-off is arbitrary and discriminatory because it has any scientific foundation.

It claims that the petitioner’s exclusion from continuing her medical study is only due to the fact that her speech defect exceeds 40%; neither an intellectual nor a physical handicap exist in her. To make the case for “reasonable accommodations” for those with disabilities, reference is made to the ruling issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Vikas Kumar v. UPSC. The petition also refers to Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, which clarified the theories of Progressive Realisation of Rights and Non-retrogression.

The appeal asks the Bench to exercise its authority under Article 142 and grant her permission to enrol in the MBBS programme in the seat designated for people with physical impairments.

The Right of Person with Disabilities Act of 2016 went into effect on April 19, 2017. The Medical Council of India (now NMC) received a report from specialists about the creation of policies for the admission of people with certain impairments. According to the findings, individuals with speech and language disabilities of 40% or more should not be permitted to enrol in medical programmes. The Regulations on Graduate Medical Education, 1997 were then updated in 2019 in accordance with the advice of the experts. The petitioner received her disability certificate on October 26, 2021, and he showed up for the NEET UG 2021 exam.

The petitioner was then given a seat at Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College in Karnal, Haryana, following an evaluation of his or her impairment and suitability for admission to the MBBS programme. She put down the necessary deposits. A disability certificate designating her as having a benchmark disability was granted on March 14, 2022. According to the 2019 modification, she was pronounced ineligible for admission. Re-verification was also attempted, but her handicap status remained unchanged. Her admittance to the designated seat was requested in a petition submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and appeals were also made to the relevant authorities. The High Court instructed the relevant authorities to take her representation into account. It had no impact because the authorities had just reiterated her eligibility.

A different writ was submitted to the High Court but was ultimately withdrawn without the petitioner’s approval.

The petitioner was further represented by Mr. Avneesh Arputham, an Advocate-on-Record, and Mr. Ankit Sharma, an Advocate, in addition to Mr. Agarwal.

[Case Status: Vibhushita Sharma v UOI & Ors W.P.(C) No. 793/2022]

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