Exam-conducting bodies must support candidates with disabilities

News: Recently, a student who suffered from dysgraphia (a disorder that causes impaired handwriting), has not been allocated a 1-hour compensatory time who appeared for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate medical courses.

What are the arguments presented by the National Testing Agency?

National Testing Agency, said that the candidate failed to furnish a disability certificate in the format prescribed in the NTA’s information bulletin for the examination. The NTA stated that the appellant’s case would be considered on the certificate being furnished.

When the candidate tried to obtain this certificate, the appellant was told that the prescribed certificate had to be produced for seeking reservation at the time of admission to a medical college, not at the time of the examination.

What is the court observation?

Bombay High Court: It dismissed the petition due to the candidate’s failure to produce the prescribed certificate

Supreme Court: It held that the prescribed certificate had to be produced at the admission stage, not at the examination stage, contrary to claims by the NTA. It further held that the appellant’s invigilators lacked adequate training, owing to which, the appellant had been wrongfully deprived of compensatory time, by virtue of a “tragedy of errors”.

SC said that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act) recognizes the principle of inclusive education for children and adults with disabilities, which in this case has been violated. Also, compensatory time is a legal entitlement of the disabled as per the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. NTA failed to discharge its positive duty to protect the appellant’s right to inclusive education.

Also read: Disability rights over time
What is the SC judgment?

It said that accepting the NTA’s argument would result in the RPwD Act being reduced to a dead letter. It provides two weeks’ time to NTA  to devise and report a suitable compensatory mechanism for the appellant.

The judgment will help to bring systemic reforms in the NTA, and other exam-conducting bodies, so that in the future disabled people’s rights will not get violated.

Source: This post is based on the article “Exam-conducting bodies must support candidates with disabilities” published in the Indian Express on 21st December 2021.

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