Attempts to cleanse Medical Education and its Regulator
Two decades of attempts to cleanse medical education and its regulator the MCI, New Delhi: The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same when it comes to the Medical Council of India (MCI). In May 2010 the UPA government dissolved the MCI and constituted a Board of Governors (BoG) to run the council while a new law was to replace the council. Government changed. The law never happened and MCI came back. Almost a decade later, a new government again dissolved the MCI and constituted a BoG which has a tenure of two years according to the latest ordinance promulgated on February 21, 2019. The government’s term is over and the law to replace MCI is nowhere in sight, despite it being a majority government. The saga of cleansing medical education in India goes on.
Here is a look at the governments vs MCI battle over the years.
Nov 2001— Delhi High Court concluded there was high level of corruption in MCI and ordered removal of then president Dr Ketan Desai, who in 2000 faced corruption charges and income tax raids. Maj Gen (retd) SP Jhingon was appointed by the court as MCI administrator. Centre was to constitute a new MCI.
Jun 2000— Jhingon complained to court that he was not being allowed to function by MCI members in the executive committee and general body, many said to be close associates of Desai.
Nov 2002— Supreme Court relieved Jhingon and appointed a three-member watch-dog committee of eminent doctors with MCI vice-president Dr Keshavan Kutty Nair (a known Desai associate) as head.
Oct 2003— CBI filed for closure of cases against Desai, but it did not happen until Oct 2005 when it came up before a different judge.
By 2007— Desai was back as MCI member and by March 2009 president yet again.
Apr 2010— CBI arrested Desai in on bribery allegations and he was removed as MCI president.
May 15, 2010— an ordinance promulgated to constitute a Board of Governors to supersede MCI for a year as the government planned to bring in the National Council for Human Resources in Health Bill. The NCHRH was supposed to subsume MCI and all other regulatory bodies related to health. However, a year later, the Bill had not been cleared by the cabinet and hence the term of the BoG was extended.
Sept 2010— IMC (Amendment) Act, 2010 that replaced the Ordinance required that the MCI be reconstituted within a year. But the government twice extended the term of the BoG by a year through amendments.
Sept 9, 2011— IMC (Amendment) Act, 2011 required that the MCI be reconstituted within two years.
Dec 2011— NCRH Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha and sent to the standing committee which rejected the bill citing serious apprehensions raised by stakeholders including state governments. In this time, the BoG was reconstituted twice.
May 12, 2012— IMC (Amendment) Act, 2012 required that the MCI be reconstituted within three years from May 15, 2010.
Mar 19, 2013 — Government introduced IMC (Amendment) Bill, 2013, but this was not considered during the Budget session.
May 14, 2013— BoG’s term expired.
May 21, 2013 — Government extended the BoG’s term for 180 days, until November 10 via IMC (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. It also stated that MCi’s term is for four years and President and Vice President cannot hold office for more than two terms.
Aug 19, 2013— A modified IMC (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, but could not be taken up.
Sept 28, 2013— Government notified the IMC (Amendment) Second Ordinance 2013, to reconstitute MCI with a tenure of four years.
Nov 6, 2013– MCI reconstituted as per the Ordinance with nominees of central and state governments constituting almost 50% of the members.
Jun 22, 2015— Centre set up a Group of Experts headed by Professor Ranjit Roy Chaudhury to study norms for establishing medical colleges and review Minimum Standard Requirements.
Sept 23, 2015— Parliamentary Standing Committee took up the subject of MCI’s functioning.
Mar 8, 2016— Standing committee’s 92nd report called for complete restructuring of MCI saying it had failed as a regulator of medical education and the profession. Corruption and lack of accountability threaten medical education in India, said the committee.
Mar 28, 2016— Government constituted a four-member committee on Indian Medical Council Act (1956) under the Chairmanship of Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog, Arvind Panagariya. Other members were P K Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog and BP Sharma, Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare (Convener).
May 2016— A five-judge Constitution bench appointed a three-member Oversight Committee, headed by former Chief Justice R M Lodha, Vinod Rai (former CAG) and Prof SK Sareen (Director ILBS) to supervise MCI’s functioning for a year unless the government put in place a suitable mechanism earlier.
May 24, 2016— IMC (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 promulgated to bring in a combined entrance examination for MBBS – NEET.
Jul 13, 2016— OC complained that MCI was not complying with its direction. Centre told five-judge bench that it was ready to put in place an alternative mechanism and so OC could be wound up. It also referred to OC wrongly approving colleges without infrastructure.
Jul 18, 2016— Five-judge SC bench gives Centre permission to replace OC with a panel of five eminent doctors- Dr VK Paul, Dr Nikhil Tandon, Dr Jagat Ram, Dr BN Gandharan and Dr Randeep Guleria.
Jul 26, 2016— Panagariya-headed committee recommended that MCI be replaced by a National Medical Commission.
Aug 5, 2016— IMC Amendment Act, 2016 replaces ordinance on NEET.
Aug 9, 2016— report of Panagariya committee put up draft NMC bill in public domain and invited comments till Aug 31, 2016.
Nov 6, 2017-– the MCI’s tenure ought to have ended since it was for four years. Instead, MCI was allowed to continue ostensibly because in original IMC Act 1956 tenure was for five years.
Nov 16, 2016—Indian Medical Association (IMA) organized pan-India strike of doctors and medical students to protest against NMC Bill. Protests continued till March 2017.
Jul 25 2017— Group of Ministers under finance minister Arun Jaitley including health minister JP Nadda and science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan constituted in March to look into concerns of states and stakeholders approved the draft NMC bill with some modifications.
Dec 16, 2017— cabinet approved NMC Bill 2017.
Dec 29, 2017— health minister introduced NMC Bill 2017 in the Lok Sabha.
Jan 2, 2018— NMC bill was sent to the standing committee.
Mar 20, 2018— Standing Committee report on NMC Bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha. Changes made included removal of bridge course for AYUSH practitioners to practice modern medicine, one of the main grouses of the protesting allopathic doctors.
Sept 2018– With the tenure of 80 of the 103 MCI members ending in November or December, the health ministry wrote to states and university senates to start the process of electing new members. Meanwhile, the five-member OC resigned complaining that MCI members were non-cooperative and non-compliant and seeking a commission of enquiry against MCI. The OC asked health ministry to apprise the court.
Sept 27, 2018— Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 was promulgated to dissolve the MCI and to run it through a panel of eminent professionals, another BoG.The seven members in the BoG include three doctors from AIIMS – Dr VK Paul (former HoD paediatrics and current member of Niti Aayog), Dr Randeep Guleria (director) and Dr Nikhil Tandon (professor endocrinology). There were two other doctors — Dr Jagat Ram (director-PGI Chandigarh) and Dr BN Gangadhar (director- National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) — and two ex officio members, Dr S Venkatesh (Director General of Health Services) and Dr Balram Bhargava (Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research). The former deputy director general of health services, Sanjay Shrivastava, was appointed secretary general to the BoG.
Dec 31, 2018— Lok Sabha passed the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to replace the earlier ordinance. It gave the BoG a tenure of one year.
Jan 12, 2019— IMC(Amendment) Bill, 2018 was pending in the Rajya Sabha,theIMC (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 was promulgated.
Feb 21, 2019— Since the ordinance would cease to operate on March 13, 2019, IMC (Amendment) Second Ordinance 2019 was promulgated. It extended the tenure of BoG from one year to two years and increased its strength from seven to 12.