New law to reconstitute MCI faces uncertainty

Introduction of a legislation to reconstitute the Medical Council of India has created a peculiar situation in which if the bill is not passed by both Houses in the remaining three weeks of the budget session, the old scam-tainted MCI may return to regulate the cash-rich medical education sector.

 
The peculiarity comes from an earlier undertaking given by the UPA government to the Parliament when it promised a new regulatory structure on medical education within 3 years of disbanding the MCI after its corrupt president Ketan Desai was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation for accepting bribes from a private medical college. The dateline expires on May 13, 2013.
 
In 2010 health ministry brought an ordnance, subsequently replaced by a law, to set up a new regulatory body. The hope was National Commission for Human Resources on Health, which was to subsume MCI and other councils, would come up within the stipulated time. 

But hopes were dashed last October when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health rejected the NCHRH bill downright.

As a last ditch effort, union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday piloted the Indian Medical Council (amendment) bill, 2013 in the Rajya Sabha seeking to form a new medical council with certain key changes in its legal power.

Introduced amidst din, the bill seeks to prescribe a fixed tenure for the council as well as its office bearers, broad base representation of medical colleges and allows non-resident Indian doctors to practice in India.
 

But considering the fact that there are only two days left in the current leg of the budget session, the Parliamentarians will have only about three weeks to examine and pass the bill in both Houses. This virtually rules out screening by the standing committee.

Though there are some precedence, generally crucial bills are sent to standing committee for examination. Health ministry officials did not disclose if such a request had indeed been made by Azad to the Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari or whether it was discussed between Azad and Leader of Opposition in the Upper House Arun Jaitley. If the bill is sent to the House panel, then its unlikely to be passed in the second half in the budget session.

Among other provisions, the bill also seeks to make it mandatory for MCI to maintain an electronic medical register where re-registration is a must in every 10 years. It is necessary for an accurate assessment on the availability of doctors.

The proposed legislation gives power to the central government to remove MCI office bearers if they are “convicted of an offence which in the opinion of the central government involves moral turpitude” and “in the opinion of central government has so abused his position as to render his continuance in office detrimental to the overall public interest.”

The entire process of cleaning up of MCI began during the tenure of Azad's predecessor Anbumani Ramadoss who claimed he as well as the Prime Minister received countless compalints from Parliament members on corruption in the council.

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