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Medical Council of India says guidelines for disabled aspirants will be amended, activists are cautious

Will the Medical Council of India (MCI) finally amend its notification barring people with disabilities from studying medicine? There may be reason to hope so.

On Thursday, the MCI told the Delhi High Court that it was in "the process of amending its notification which debars people with disabilities from pursuing medical courses". This was during the hearing into a petition filed by Dr Mohammed Shaloo challenging the guideline barring MBBS doctors with a disability of over 80% from doing further specialization.

Dr Shaloo has been a practising doctor for over two years now and has cleared the post graduate medical entrance exam successfully. However, the new MCI guidelines bar him from pursuing an MD.

In court, his lawyer, Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal argued that by way of making disabled people ineligible to enter medical courses, the MCI was practising discrimination, and so the new guidelines should be set aside.

"The PG course is barely weeks away and the court noted the urgency of the matter" said Dr Shaloo to NewzHook. "Given the urgency, the court said it would hear the matter early next week, on Tuesday".

The MCI's attitude has been repeatedly called out in judgements of various high courts as well as the Supreme Court. Yet, it has persisted with its discriminatory approach, points out disability rights crusader Dr Satendra Singh, who has filed a petition challenging the recent guidelines. Even now, he is cautious about the MCI's next steps.

Based on my past experience with the MCI, I would prefer to wait and see what they say in court. When I filed my PIL in February, the MCI lawyer did not even turn up in court. If they wanted to change the guidelines, they could have done it then. With just two weeks left for PG counselling, this is sheer harassment. We have to see the changes in black and white, so let's wait for the guidelines to be out. This will surely help Dr Shaloo and others like him but we cannot be sure. - Dr Satendra Singh, Disability rights crusader

Advocate Bansal also struck a note of caution. "As far as Dr Shaloo's case is concerned, I do not foresee a problem because his is a locomotor disability and the Ministry has been supportive of such cases. However there are many other disabilities that the MCI has refused to recognize. For instance, people with one hand and some blood disorders so let's see what they are trying to amend".

The MCI's biased and obstructionist behaviour in the matter has been criticized strongly, not only by activists but leading figures in the medical fraternity. Among them is Dr Upreet Dhaliwal, Former Director-Professor of Ophthalmology, University College of Medical Sciences, University of Delhi.

"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".

The MCI has been shamed repeatedly for its attitude. High time it took steps to correct this.

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