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Court steps up for disabled MBBS aspirants, issues notices to MCI, two ministries

"How can you debar people with disabilities from entering the MBBS course?"

This is the question put forward to the Medical Council of India (MCI) by a bench of the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition challenging the discriminatory guidelines of the MCI regarding undergraduate disabled medical aspirants.

Disability rights crusader Dr Satendra Singh had filed a petition in the court seeking to quash the discriminatory guidelines. While this did not happen, the court had strong words for the MCI questioning how it has come up "with the magical number of 80%".

The court also issued notices to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the MCI seeking a response as to why people with over 80% disability have been barred from pursuing the MBBS program.

We argued that the MCI notification is against the law of the land, saying that there is no scientific basis for barring disabled people from entering he medical field and that in India and around the world there are many examples of doctors with disabilities who are doing outstanding work. We told the court that the MCI has not applied its mind and has shown total negligence, to which the court issued notices to the MCI and the ministries asking them why they issued such a notification. - Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, Lawyer for petitioner

The petition also highlights how the MCI guidelines violate Section 3 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which provides for equality and non-discrimination.

Aspirants like Sachin Malik, who last year successfully challenged the Haryana government's move to deny him admission on grounds of a 80% disability, hopes that the court's strong stand will bring relief to others.

"By taking such a position the court will hopefully put pressure on the MCI to withdraw the unjust guidelines so others do not suffer like I did", said Malik.

The court has given the three parties four weeks' time to respond. While this still gives undergraduate students who are applying this enough time, it is too late for postgraduate (PG) counselling admissions, a matter that Dr Singh plans to take up separately after speaking to the affected people.

One of them is Dr Mohammed Shaloo, who has been practising as a junior resident doctor for two years now. Dr Shaloo too plans to file a separate petition against the MCI. What is the heartening is the widespread support extended by the larger medical fraternity towards doctors like him.

As Dr Upreet Dhaliwal, from the University College of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi points out, the MCI's discriminatory attitude sends out "the message that people with disability may get is that they are not welcome in medicine or that they cannot possibly contribute in a meaningful way. Nothing could be further from the truth. By denying people with disability their right to train as doctors, we deny patients with disabilities access to medical professionals who understand their bodies and their reality from first-hand experience".

Time that the MCI reads the writing on the wall.

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