The National Medical Commission (NMC) informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that a diagnosis of mental illness should no longer be a barrier to pursuing an MBBS course, and individuals with mental illnesses may be considered for quota benefits in the future once more accurate methods of disability assessment are established.
The Supreme Court had previously instructed the NMC on May 18 to establish a panel of domain experts to examine a request for evolving new modes of disability assessment for students with mental illnesses, special learning disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, in order to grant quotas for admission to MBBS courses.
During the hearing, the bench acknowledged the lawyer’s submission that several countries not only allow individuals with mental illnesses to pursue medical education but also provide reservations for them.
The Supreme Court allowed the petitioner, an MBBS aspirant represented by Gaurav Kumar Bansal, to amend the petition to challenge the NMC’s new guidelines regarding the admission of individuals with mental illnesses to MBBS courses and the lack of quota for them under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, for the time being.
The NMC established an eight-member expert panel to examine the issue of admission to MBBS courses under the disabilities law, specifically concerning special learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and mental illnesses.
The NMC stated in its report that after careful consideration of the expert members’ recommendations, it was determined that a diagnosis of mental illness should no longer be a barrier to eligibility for pursuing medical education (MBBS), provided the candidate is on the merit list in the competitive entrance examination (NEET-UG). However, the benefit of reservation or quota cannot be determined with the current methods of assessment, so the statement in the earlier disability notification from May 13, 2019, stating that “the benefit of reservation quota may be considered in the future after developing better methods of disability assessment,” remains valid.
The NMC added that candidates claiming to have mental illnesses are being considered under the “Non-PwD” (outside the disabilities law) category for admission to MBBS courses.
The bench accepted the report and indicated that it would revisit the matter after four weeks.
The case revolved around Vishal Gupta, an MBBS aspirant who was denied reservation in MBBS course admission under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act because his mental disability exceeded 40 percent, rendering him ineligible for quota benefits.
Under the Act, if a certifying authority determines that a person’s disability is not less than 40 percent, they are considered to have “benchmark disability,” and in such cases, the individual cannot avail themselves of reservation benefits in admission.
The Supreme Court had previously emphasized that individuals with special learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders should not be treated unfairly and denied quota benefits under the statute. It instructed the NMC to consider the petitioner’s grievance at an appropriate level while dealing with the regulations on graduate medical education.
The petitioner argued that he had a benchmark disability, and as per Section 32 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, respondents were obligated to provide at least 5% reservation for persons with benchmark disabilities. The petition sought a direction against the Center and others, including the NMC, to permit Gupta, who had a benchmark disability, to pursue the Medical Science Course under the PwD Quota and to develop methods of disability assessment for MBBS aspirants with mental illnesses, declaring them eligible for the PwD quota.