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Modi Government acts to set right MCI’s mucky mess

Lalit Shastri

New Delhi: The President of India promulgated the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018  (Ordinance 8 of 2018) on 26 September 2018 as the passage of the Medical Commission Bill is pending in Parliament. Under this ordinance, the Medical Council of India shall stand superseded and the President and Vice President and other Members of the Council shall vacate their offices and shall have no claim for any compensation whatsoever.

According to sources, there a few bigwigs in the ruling BJP as well as the main Opposition Congress party who were only interested in maintaining the status quo vis-a-vis MCI and as a result the passage of the Medical Commission Bill in Rajya Sabha had got delayed.

Upon the Supersession of the Council and untill a new Council is reconstituted, a Board of Governors has been constituted by the Central Government to exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Council under the Act.

The appointment of the Board of Governors is a significant development at the direct initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Oversight Committee that was overseeing the working of Medical Council of India had lodged a complaint with the Prime Minister regarding lack of cooperation from the MCI.

The Central Government has now constituted the Board of Governors consisting of the following persons as its Chairperson and Members:

1. DR V.K. Paul, Member NITI Ayog – Chairman

2. Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director AIIMS, New Delhi – Member

3. Dr. Jagat Ram, Director, PGIMER, Chandigar – Member

4. Dr. B.N. Gangadhar, Director, NIMHANS, Bangalore – Member

5. Dr. Nikhil Tandon, Professor, Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism, AIIMS, New delhi – Member

6. Dr. S. Venkatesh, Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – Member ex-officio

7. Prof Balram Bhargava, Secretary department of Health research and Diector General Indian Council of Medical research, New Delhi – Member ex-officio.

Dr. Sanjay Shrivastava, Ex-Deputy Director General, Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi has been appointed the Secretary General to assist the Board of Governors.

In view of widespread criticism of the workings of the Medical Council of India underscored in the 92nd Report of Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, presented to the Rajya Sabha on 8th March 2016, the Government of India had appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog on 28th March 2016. The Committee, which included Additional Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, CEO, NITI Aayog and Secretary, H&FW as Members, was asked to examine all options for reforms in the Medical Council of India and suggest the way forward.

The preliminary report submitted in August 2016 included a draft Bill intended to replace the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. Main Features of the Proposed Bill were as under:

1. Regulators of highest standards of professional integrity and excellence must be appointed through an independent and a transparent selection process by a broad-based Search cum Selection Committee.

2. A New Institutional Architecture for Regulation was suggested with (i) A Medical Advisory Council (MAC) having representation from the States and Union Territories (UTs) to articulate the national agenda for medical education; (ii) the National Medical Commission (NMC), which is to serve as the policy-making body for medical education; and (iii) four autonomous Boards charged Under Graduate Medical Education, Post Graduate Medical Education, Medical Assessment and Rating and Registration and Ethics.

3. Since it was felt that the input based regulatory philosophy underlying the current MCI had turned into a high entry barrier, the NMC regulation was to be overwhelmingly based on outcomes rather than inputs. The Committee proposed periodic publication of ratings of medical institutions.

4. The Committee  also proposed that NMC be empowered to fix norms for regulating fees for a proportion of seats in private medical colleges while allowing the promoters to fix the fees for the remainder of seats transparently. No fees other than clearly announced on the website of the college should be permitted.

5. The committee proposed to provide a statutory basis for common entrance examination for admissions to under-graduate and post-graduate courses in Medical institutions and a Common Licentiate Examination for practice by medical professionals after completion of the undergraduate medical degree.

6. The Committee recommended that ‘for- profit’ organizations be permitted to establish medical colleges.

Backdrop: A case that had been registered on High Court orders against Ketan Desai, the President of Medical Council of India, after he was asked to step down as President of the Council during his earlier stint, was closed by the CBI and a closure report given to the designated court overlooking the documentary evidence handed over by MCI employees, directly to the CBI and also through the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, relating to irregularities in granting of registration, granting permission to fake degrees, regularising degrees in violation of High Court and Supreme Court orders and changing of inspection reports.

This case–closed a few years later–was registered against Desai on the charge of misconduct for receiving huge amount of money through cheques as gift from two families and recognition granted to two colleges on the basis of false reports. The issue relating to the monetary gifts received by Ketan Desai, in his name and in the name of his family members, is a serious matter and calls for judicial review as Desai was a Government servant in Gujarat during the period in question and the Gujarat Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1971 were applicable to him. As per the conduct rule, he could have taken gifts exceeding Rs. 1000 only with the permission of the Gujarat Government. No such permission was obtained by him.

The CBI failed to investigate the huge amount received as gifts by Desai and his family members. Question arises whether or not the CBI had conducted any investigation to probe if these were genuine gifts or was it a case of money laundering.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in the matter of Ketan Desai in response to a petition by Harish Bhalla, the High Court had ordered the CBI to register a case. An affidavit presented in Court in this case said: “a racket of corruption was seriously jeopardizing fair and honest working of the Council which had appellant (Ketan Desai) as the king pin. The office of MCI and the Executive Committee which carries superlative powers in terms of appointment of inspectors for the various institutions to be carried out by MCI was being misused.” It is a different matter that Harish Bhalla subsequently withdrew his affidavit against Ketan Desai. This further paved the way for Desai to extricate himself from the case pending against him in court under the anti-corruption law.

Later a case was filed by me in the Delhi High Court against Ketan Desai underscoring the above lapses. Even the CBI was made a respondednt in this case. At this stage, when there was an assurance that the CBI was ready to proceed against Ketan Desai, this case was withdrawn from the High Court with a request that alternate remedy will be sought in this matter. Subsequently, Ketan Dasai was even arrested and jailed in 2010 on corruption and conspiracy charges and later released on bail. He was subsequently acquitted in the absence of permission for prosecution. In 2010, his inauguration as the World Medical Association (WMA) president was suspended but three years later the suspension was revoked.

Also Check: Don of Medical Council of India

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