In High Court, Health Ministry puts the blame on Council for delay

The Delhi High Court has given the Medical Council of India (MCI) six weeks to finalise the curriculum for the new 3-1/2 year course, ‘Bachelor of Rural Health Care (BRHC)’. The course was proposed by the Health Ministry to meet the acute shortage of (MBBS) qualified doctors in rural areas due to which rural population was being deprived of basic, primary health care.

The court issued the order on Thursday while hearing a contempt case filed by public health specialist Meenakshi Gautham. In her plea filed on February 27, she sought contempt proceedings against the Union Health Secretary and the MCI Chairperson for not having complied with the court’s November 10, 2010 order, wherein they had been asked to initiate measures to introduce the BRHC course by March 2011.

The court had served contempt notices on the Health Secretary and the MCI and had given four weeks’ time to file their responses (see The Hindu, February 28). The contemnors had filed their affidavits in March/April and Thursday’s hearing was following their submissions.

The November 2010 order was issued following several hearings on a 2009 writ petition by Ms. Gautham and the Garhwal Community and Development Society (GCDS). The plea sought speedy introduction of the short-term course for rural health care as per the resolution of the 9th Conference of the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare in November 2007 and the recommendation of the 2007 Task Force on Medical Education Reforms for National Rural Health Mission. The order had directed the MCI to finalise the syllabus by January 2011 and the Ministry to begin the course by March 2011. Their failure to comply with the order had prompted Ms. Gautham to file the contempt petition.

Draft curriculum ready

In its affidavit, the Ministry has stated that it was ready with a draft curriculum in October 2010 itself and this had been sent to the MCI on October 28, 2010, for its comments and final approval. But the MCI has not been able to give it a final shape even now.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the petitioner, said the MCI had stated in its affidavit that it would finalise the course by April 2012 but it was yet to do so even four months after that. In fact, counsel for the Centre also stated that the Ministry was still waiting for the MCI to finalise the syllabus.

Reason for delay

At Thursday’s hearing, the MCI said the delay was due to the matter being considered by yet another committee of the Council. The Bench, led by Justice Rajiv Shakdher, rejected this argument and ordered the MCI to finalise the curriculum within six weeks, failing which the MCI Secretary should be personally present. The next hearing is slated for October 18.

More In: National | News