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Above: Two students were denied admission to Tripura Medical College as they were colour blind

It has been finally decided that colour blindness isn’t a hurdle in either the study of medicine or in becoming a successful doctor/surgeon. And with the Supreme Court putting its stamp on the legality of the issue, the belief of two students who were denied admission two years back has been vindicated.

When the two students got through the admission test and then tried to get admitted to the Tripura Medical College, they were denied. They went to the Tripura High Court, which also turned down their plea. They were not ones to give up and approached the Supreme Court. That was in September 2015. The court gave its nod on July 7.

The respondents, the Medical Council of India (MCI), argued that as per the council’s recommendation of 2004, those who were colour blind would not be able to perform their duty as doctor and hence were barred from studying medicine.

That did not satisfy the Supreme Court, which ordered a new committee to study the issue. The committee comprised two ophthalmologists, a geneticist, a psychiatrist and a physiologist. This committee concluded that the restriction was not tenable.

The committee also pointed out that Japan also had such a restriction in place, but had removed it over a decade back. What was found that there was actually a detailed report of a much bigger committee of the MCI on visual deficiency available. This was submitted over three years back. Its recommendations have not been implemented.

There is no bar worldwide for students with different levels of colour blindness.

Interestingly, Dr Samiran Nundy, eminent gastrointestinal surgeon who established the first gastrointestinal surgery department in the country at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) pointed out that he himself was partially colour blind.

“If the MCI does not allow colour blind students to become doctors it will lose a number of individuals who would have contributed to healthcare in this country. After I was found to be partially colour blind, I have trained in and taught medicine and surgery in Cambridge, London and Harvard and returned to AIIMS in 1975. I have performed more than 25,000 operations, taught and trained hundreds of doctors, published 13 books, 230 research papers and edited four journals. I am grateful for having had this opportunity which I hope will not be denied to others,” said Dr Nundy.

—India Legal Bureau

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