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Supreme Court raps Haryana government for denying disabled students' MBBS admission

Sachin Malik and Pramod Kataria's four-month long struggle for justice is finally over.

These young men from Haryana, who are disabled, will be able to study medicine in a government medical college in the state from next year.

Sachin and Pramod had been denied MBBS admission by the Haryana government in spite of them making it to the merit list under the physically handicapped category. Pramod has a hearing disability while Sachin has a neurogenic bladder, which is an invisible locomotor disability.

They appealed first in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which ruled in their favour. However, the Haryana government said the seats reserved in the disabled category had been converted to general and filled.

Relief finally came from the Supreme Court (SC) , which has ruled saying, "the candidates were entitled to admission in the MBBS course and have been illegally deprived".

I have been so tense for four months now. The order has made me very happy. I am losing one year but at least now I know that I will be able to study MBBS from next year. - Sachin Malik, Aspiring medical student

Sachin and Pramod's struggle is yet another instance of how Medical Council of India guidelines continue to act as barriers for people with disabilities when it comes to studying MBBS.

Their lawyer Advocate Jeetendra Gupta points out that even after Sachin and Pramod told Haryana State Counselling that the SC had upheld the provisions of the RPWD Act over MCI guidelines that seek to limit the upper gap of disabilities, they were not heeded.

"The fault lies with the MCI for failing to notify the States that the guidelines have changed. What is worse is that there were 30 seats in the disabled category reserved in Haryana, but the government admitted only eight PwD students and converted the rest to general category. "

What is telling is the position taken by the Haryana government even after the High Court ruled in Sachin and Pramod's favor. The government offered them seats in Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and that too in private, where fees are 20 times higher. It was finally left to the SC to step in.

"I am glad the apex court granted them their rightful due", says leading disability rights activist Dr Satendra Singh, who leads the advocacy group that successfully fought to have the discriminatory MCI guidelines changed.

"This is perhaps the first case of a person with a chronic neurological condition, with an invisible disability, getting an MBBS seat. Thanks to the SC, but this again proves the injustice meted out by the MCI to so many candidates with disabilities who missed out MBBS admissions as they did not file court cases", adds Dr Singh.

However, since the PwD seats for this year have been filled up and three months of studies have started, the court directed the government to admit them next year.

"It is unfortunate that people who are already underprivileged by disability have to run around for their rights", says Advocate Gupta. "What this shows is that colleges do not want to accommodate these students because they will have to change infrastructure, bring in equipment and invest in attitudinal change, which is something they don't want to do. "

To ensure that Sachin and Pramod's chances of admission are not affected by a new amendment moved the state government, their lawyer plans to approach the court.

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