Court judgements: National Human Rights Commission
1. Rehabilitation of physically handicapped: Madhya Pradesh
Shri Bihari Lal Thevait, a resident of District Bilaspur, Madhya Pradesh sent a petition to the Commission wherein he said that he was a 26-year old man whose lower limbs had not been affected by polio. He also suffered from a cardiac problem. He had approached the District Collector for assistance and employment. Although the District Collector arranged for his operation at a private hospital, free of cost, the operation was not successful and even after four to five years he was not cured. He alleged that the operation was suggested instead of providing him with a tricycle. The then District Collector also provided him with assistance at the rate of Rs.2,000/- per month and this continued until such time as that Collector was in office. The Collector also passed an order for his appointment as an Assistant Teacher. However, this did not materialise. He, therefore, sought compensation of Rupees Fifty lakhs for violation of his fundamental rights, treatment of his heart ailment, management of his disability and employment as an Assistant Teacher.
Though the Commission does not normally take action on petitions which relate essential to service matters, the Commission in this case issued a notice to the Collector and called for a report as the petitioner was a disabled person. The Collector responded saying that the complainant was affected by polio when he was one-and-a-half years old and that both his feet were deformed. The opinion of Orthopaedic Doctors was sought, and they had certified that the complainant would have to move on hands and knees, in a crawling position, unless he was operated upon. Accordingly, he was operated upon in 1988 and his limb deformity was corrected to a large extent. In five months time, he was fitted with calipers and a walking frame to help him stand erect. The Collector also stated that the complainant was entitled to be considered for a job under the quota for persons with disabilities. According to the Collector, the complainant had tried to obtain a certificate of complete recovery to enable him to get the job of an Assistant Teacher. He was advised to obtain a disability certificate from the competent authority. The petitioner apparently made the complaint as he was aggrieved by this advice. The report of the Collector was sent to the complainant for his comments. However, the petitioner stood by his complaint and stated that the operation, which was performed, was not successful and his defect was not cured even after four years. The complainant claimed Rupees Twenty lakhs as compensation for mental and physical torture he had undergone and Rupees Thirty lakhs for protection of his rights and for his living.
The Commission considered the matter carefully and expressed appreciation of the action taken by the District Collector. The question whether the condition of the petitioner worsened after the operation, as claimed by him, was not probed further. However, the Commission felt that the State Government, in a Welfare State, should help alleviate the suffering of such disabled persons. Accordingly, the following recommendations were made by the Commission to the State of Madhya Pradesh:
(a) To grant ex-gratia monetary relief to the tune of Rupees One lakh to the petitioner, either from the fund established by the State Government for the welfare of the handicapped persons, or from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
(b) To offer a job to the petitioner commensurate with his academic qualifications and physical ability, in accordance with the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, or on compassionate grounds.
The State Government has intimated the Commission that it has paid a sum of Rs. 1 lakh as compensation to the petitioner.
2, Visually handicapped Anka Toppo is to complete MBBS: NHRC directs AIIMS to facilitate exams
Upon the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences has agreed to allow and facilitate a visually handicapped medical student, Mr. Anka Toppo to appear for MBBS final examination. Mr. Toppo was denied permission for appearance in the final professional examination of the MBBS after he lost his sight due to Eale’s disease.
Mr. Anka Toppo approached the Commission after he was allegedly denied permission for appearance for the final MBBS examination in May 2001 for “want of approval of guidelines” from the Medical Council of India (MCI) as his was the first such case of this kind. He has also alleged harassment by the faculty and misinformation to concerned authorities to prevent him from writing the final examination even after he had mastered reading normal books with the help of a computer and a scanner.
Earlier, Mr. Toppo had been selected for MBBS course at the AIIMS in 1989. He passed the first and second professional examinations and was to appear in the final examination in December 1993. But barely two months before the final examination, he lost his sight.
On the advice of the Commission, the authorities at the AIIMS discussed the matter with some of its former Directors and Deans. They were of the opinion that in view of the severe visual loss suffered by Mr. Toppo, it would not be possible for him to work in medical profession. The authorities however informed the Commission that it could grant Mr. Toppo a degree in Human Biology and also help him to get an employment at the AIIMS. Mr. Toppo, however, insisted on pursuing his medical career despite visual disability. The Deputy Commissioner for Persons with Disability, Institute for the Physically Handicapped, Delhi, Ms. Anuradha Mohit appeared before the Commission on behalf of the petitioner and referred to the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full Participation) Act, 1995 which now has statutory provisions for enabling persons with disabilities of any kind to be provided with equal opportunity in all matters including acquisition of knowledge and employment, and was thus pertinent in this case.
Mr. Toppo brought to the notice of the Commission that his case was not the first of its kind; one Dr. Parameswarappa of Karnataka had been allowed to complete his MBBS under similar circumstances in 1977 by the Bangalore Medical College. Dr. Parameswarappa continues to be associated with the Department of Pharmacology of the Bangalore Medical College since the last 20 years. The Commission had also viewed the story on him, done by a TV Channel some time back.
The Commission then asked the authorities at the AIIMS to examine whether the methods adopted for examining Dr. Parameswarappa could be applied in the case of Anka Toppo, especially, when he claimed to have learnt reading normal textbooks. The Commission also arranged a meeting between Dr. Y.G. Parameswarappa and the Director of AIIMS, to help the latter ascertain the factual position as to how could Dr. Parameswarappa managed to take the final examination of MBBS inspite of being visually handicapped. Dr. Parameswarappa had been provided with a “writer” to assist him during theory papers. He was also allowed to complete his internship with the help of an assistant
Finally, in May 2001, the authorities at the AIIMS, apprised the Commission that they were of the opinion that it was possible to examine the petitioner, Shri Toppo, for the MBBS course inspite of his disability by offering a modified methodology of examination. The Director, AIIMS, also informed the Commission that he was taking steps to examine Shri Toppo for the final MBBS examination at the earliest and the latter would be kept informed for the same. Further, in the light of the experience of this case, an exercise has been undertaken in the Institute to work out a methodology, which could be adopted in all similar cases in future so that there was a system in position which could be practiced each time such a situation arose. A Committee of experts was being constituted for the purpose and the entire exercise would require about three months to be in place. The Commission has placed on record its appreciation of the efforts made by the Director, AIIMS and his colleagues.
The Commission also feels that the Medical Council of India should perform a similar exercise so that the same facility and system is available in other medical institutions of the country as well.