Supreme Court: Mental Illness No Longer a Bar for Pursuing MBBS Course
The National Medical Commission (NMC) revealed to the Supreme Court that a diagnosis of mental illness should no longer prohibit individuals from pursuing an MBBS course. Furthermore, it suggested that such aspirants may be considered for quota benefits in the future, pending the development of improved disability assessment methods.
In response to a plea for evolving disability assessment modes for students with mental illnesses, special learning disorders, and autism spectrum disorders seeking MBBS course admissions, the Supreme Court instructed the NMC to establish a panel of domain experts on May 18. The court acknowledged that several countries permit individuals with mental illnesses to pursue medical education and grant them admissions quotas.
Lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal, representing an MBBS aspirant, was granted permission by the top court to amend the petition. The amendment challenged the NMC’s fresh guidelines regarding admissions for individuals with mental illness in MBBS courses and the lack of quota benefits under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.
Expert Panel Deliberations
An eight-member expert panel delved into the issue of admission in MBBS courses under the disabilities law. Specifically, they considered special learning disabilities, autistic specified disorders, and mental illness. The panel’s recommendations prompted the Under Graduate Medical Education Board to conclude that the diagnosis of mental illness should no longer be a bar to pursuing an MBBS course, provided the candidate ranks in the merit list in competitive entrance examinations like NEET-UG.
The NMC stated, “Since the benefits of reservation/quota are not determinable under the present available methods of assessment, the quoted statement in the earlier disability notification dated May 13, 2019 — ‘However, the benefit of reservation quota may be considered in the future after developing better methods of disability assessment’ — shall remain valid.”
As a result, candidates claiming to have mental illness are currently being considered under the “Non-PwD” (outside the disabilities law) category for MBBS course admissions.
The bench acknowledged the NMC’s efforts in establishing the expert committee and formulating guidelines. It decided to revisit the issue after four weeks.
This case centers around Vishal Gupta, who was denied reservation in MBBS course admissions under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act due to his mental disability exceeding 55 percent, rendering him ineligible. According to the Act, individuals with a disability of at least 40 percent are considered to have “benchmark disability” and are entitled to reservation benefits in admissions.
The bench emphasized that individuals with special learning disorders and autism spectrum disorders should not be denied quota benefits under the law. They called for the involvement of an expert body with domain knowledge to address the raised concerns.
The Supreme Court issued an order on May 18, directing the National Medical Commission to treat Vishal Gupta’s grievance as a representation and consider it during the regulation of graduate medical education.
In his petition, Gupta argued that he was being discriminated against because of his mental illness disability, which was certified at 55 percent by Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals. He was being denied admission to pursue a medical science course and not receiving the benefit of quota available to persons with disabilities under the law.
The petition stated, “As per Section 32 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the respondents are duty-bound to provide at least 5% reservation to persons with benchmark disabilities. Accordingly, the National Medical Commission is providing PwD Quota to MBBS aspirants with benchmark disabilities.”
Gupta’s petition sought a direction against the Center and other relevant authorities, including the NMC, to allow him, as a person with a benchmark disability, to pursue a Medical Science Course under the PwD Quota. It also requested the issuance of a writ, order, or direction mandating the development of disability assessment methods for MBBS aspirants with mental illness, making them eligible for PwD quota.