Govt must reform medical education

The Supreme Court has virtually neutralised the Medical Council of India by appointing a three-member committee to oversee the functioning of the regulatory body.

The committee will have powers to monitor all statutory functions of the MCI. All policy decisions of the MCI will have to be approved by the Oversight Committee, which can also issue appropriate remedial directions. This means that the MCI, which is a statutory body created by an Act of Parliament, will no longer be an independent entity. The MCI has brought this situation upon itself because it has persistently failed to discharge its functions well and brought disrepute to itself. The court has made scathing comments on the body by stating that it neither represented professional excellence nor the ethos under the MCI Act. The court’s initiative may be taken as the beginning of a process of cleaning up the Augean stables of the country’s system of medical education and administration.

The Oversight Committee is headed by retired Justice R M Lodha who had, at the court’s instance, made proposals to reform the BCCI. It also has two other eminent members. But the challenge is different in the case of the MCI. It is a statutory body with legal backing while the BCCI is a private entity. The task is more important because the functioning of the MCI affects the lives of millions of people and the future of the country’s medical education and health system. The Oversight Committee will function for one year and the government will have to create a new National Medical Commission by bringing in suitable legislation. The court would not have taken the drastic decision that it did if the government had taken steps to revamp and reform the MCI. The ills of the regulatory body have been known for a long time. It has always functioned as a corrupt and discredited body which did much damage to medical education.

Many committees have gone into the working of the MCI and made recommendations to overhaul it. The report of a parliamentary committee was submitted last month. The government says it is awaiting the report of another committee which is due to make its recommendations soon. Every one of the MCI’s functions like the framing the medical curriculum, granting permission for colleges and maintaining professional standards has to be reviewed. The Supreme Court resorted to its special powers to set up the committee. This could have been avoided if the government had acted in time. It should act now, because a judge-led committee to oversee the medical regulatory system should only be a temporary arrangement.

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