Ordinance likely to rein in MCI

Under existing law, minister has no power to take action against corrupt officials

 
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday told the Rajya Sabha that the Centre hardly had any say in the MCI affairs as out of the 120 council members, only eight were Central government nominees.

An earlier effort by the Health Ministry to amend the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956, providing more scope for government intervention was turned down by the Parliamentary Standing committee on health, which argued that the move will destroy the council’s autonomy.

Deccan Herald has learnt that Azad is now favouring the ordinance route once the Parliament session is over. He has sought the opinion of Union Law Ministry on the issue.

Crucial aspects

Two crucial aspects of the proposed ordinance would be fixing the number of terms for MCI president and vice-president and empowering the Centre to take action against the council members, including the president and vice-president, if they are caught in corruption charges or for misconduct.

Ketan Desai was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on April 11 for allegedly accepting Rs 2 crore bribe in lieu of granting recognition to a private medical college in Punjab. 

Azad on Tuesday said the existing law did not give any authority to the minister to take action against corrupt officials like Desai.

The minister asked the MPs to revisit the amendments proposed by the ministry to restore the credibility of the MCI, which regulates the medical education in India.
The minister admitted to sitting on the MCI issue for more than a year after the standing committee on health, headed by Amar Singh, turned down almost all proposed amendments.

The issue was taken up again in UPA-II when President Prathibha Patil, in her address to both Houses of Parliament,  recommended  setting up a National Council for Human Resources in Health, which will subsume not only the MCI but also the Dental Council, Nursing Council and other similar councils.

The bill on the establishment of the council has been sent to all the states. So far, 13 states have sent their responses.

Azad indicated that the Health Ministry might not wait for the response from all the states and go ahead with the proposed council.

What’s holding the council at the moment is a turf war between Azad and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal on the regulation of medical education.  
Sibal has proposed to establish a national commission on higher education and research where for the first time a health ministry official has been asked to come and present the medical education scenario.

The NCHER meeting is scheduled to be held in the second half of this week.

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