May 15, 2010

Ordinance empowers Health Ministry to dissolve the MCI

The Cabinet on Thursday approved an Ordinance allowing the health ministry to take over the charges of the Medical Council of India (MCI). The Ordinance will lead to the setting up of a seven-member board of governors for the MCI to run the council on a day-to-day basis.

It will be valid for one year. During this time, the government is expected to decide whether the MCI would be brought within the ambit of the National Council for Human Resources in Health (NCHRH) under the health ministry, or the National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) under the human resource development ministry.

The health ministry is opposed to the idea of bringing medical education under the NCHER. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad favours the idea of the National Council for Human Resources in Health, which will subsume the MCI, along with the Dental Council, Nursing Council and other similar councils. The bill on the establishment of the council has been sent to all states. So far the responses have come from 13 states.

The Prime Minister’s Office favours including medical education under the NCHER. Sources in the human resource development ministry are confident that eventually medical education will be brought under the purview of the NCHER.

After MCI president Ketan Desai’s arrest by the CBI on April 11, the government opted for the ordinance route rather than handing over the reins to MCI vice-president Kesavankutty Nair, apprehending a repeat of 2001 when Desai ran the show from behind despite not being the MCI president, thanks to a Delhi High Court directive. Mr Nair is seen as a staunch supporter of Ketan Desai because he not only protected him since 2001 but was also instrumental in Desai’s re-election as the MCI president in 2009 through an uncontested election.

Mr Azad had made it clear that the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, was inadequate to deal with the situation in the Council. In his reply to a discussion in Parliament, Mr Azad had said: “I am increasingly of the opinion that provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, are inadequate to ensure transparent, healthy and constructive decision-making within the council.” However, the government is not in favour of bringing any amendments to the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956 till Prime Minister Manmohan Singh takes a decision on which new commission will subsume the MCI as well as other councils in the health sector.

The ordinance will give the government executive powers to set the Council in order. An earlier attempt under UPA-I to amend the Indian Medical Council Act to allow for government intervention was turned down by the parliamentary standing committee on health, which argued that the move will destroy the council’s autonomy. The ordinance route was opted for as there has been resistance from many MPs to giving government greater powers and the fact that amending the law would be a time-consuming affair.

Link: Original Article

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