Spring cleaning

With the promulgation of an ordinance which has created a seven-member board to take over the functioning of the Medical Council of India, the government has made it clear that the regulatory body is practically no more. The actual dissolution will come about before the ordinance expires in an year and it gives the government time to put in place an alternative arrangement. The government’s action shows that the rot in the MCI had gone beyond personal corruption indulged in by its president Ketan Desai who was arrested last month while taking a bribe of Rs 2 crore. Punishment of Desai and his supporters and accomplices in the MCI would not have been enough. Corruption has actually been so institutionalised in the MCI that it has to be disbanded altogether. The fact that Desai controlled the MCI for many years even after he was sacked on the orders of the Delhi high court and could make a comeback shows that.

But there is confusion over the composition of the future set-up. The thinking is to separate the present powers and responsibilities of the MCI into two streams. The education and  training powers will go to the proposed National Council for Higher Education and Research under the HRD ministry and only the responsibility for registration of doctors and maintenance of ethical and professional standards will vest in the Medical Council, which will be attached to the health ministry. The health ministry has envisaged a National Council for Human Resource to regulate medical education. But the bifurcation proposal has been criticised on the ground that important decisions on medical education, including those relating to approval of medical colleges, should not be left to a a body of generalists like the NCHER. The NCHER will have many other issues connected with higher education in other fields also to deal with and may not be able to pay full attention to medical education. On the other side it is pointed out that the MCI was only a professional council like the bar council until 1956, when it got additional powers under the new MCI Act.

The HRD ministry and the health ministry seem to have different views on the matter. The prime minister’s office will probably have to settle the dispute between the ministries after a thorough public debate.

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