Reiterating that the Centre was committed to making the medical education system transparent, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday said efforts were being taken to restore the credibility of the Medical Council of India (MCI) that has taken a serious dent following the arrest of its president, Ketan Desai, on corruption charges. Replying to a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Azad said: “I have already referred this case to the Law Ministry…I am awaiting its response. Whatever the Law Ministry suggests, I will go with it.” He pointed out that Mr. Desai was chosen in MCI elections monitored by the Supreme Court and the government would like to take a correct line in the case.
Seeking more powers for his ministry to deal with cases of corruption in the MCI, Mr. Azad said Parliament should frame a new law to fix the tenure of its functionaries and give the government more powers so that more effective steps could be taken. But the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health had vetoed such a proposal, he said, adding the existing law needed to be amended to make it foolproof.
“The provisions of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 are inadequate to ensure transparent, healthy and constructive decision-making within the council. The government is examining several possible avenues to achieve these objectives, taking into account both the present legal status and the essential elements of reform that would be necessary.”
Blaming corruption in medical education on shortage of teaching staff and colleges, the Minister asked all State governments to increase the retirement age to 65, while efforts should be made to add medical seats across the country.
Earlier, raising serious questions over the functioning of the MCI and the government remaining a mute spectator to rampant corruption in the council, Brinda Karat (CPI-M) demanded fresh legislation which would ensure its accountability and democratisation, and parliamentary oversight. She said political leaders running medical institutions meant extra powers to the private management lobby to help the people who wanted to manipulate the system.
Kalraj Mishra (BJP) said rampant corruption in medical education was forcing students to cough up Rs. 35 lakh-50 lakh for a seat. For a postgraduate seat, it was Rs.70 lakh-Rs.1 crore.
Karan Singh (Congress) said the MCI standards had deteriorated in the last few years, leading to creation of sub-standard doctors.
Jayanthi Natarajan (Congress) demanded exemplary action against MCI members and asked the Centre to bring out a list of colleges inspected by the MCI teams.