The Centre is contemplating bringing in an ordinance to amend the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 empowering the government to intervene in the event of MCI members, including the president and the vice-president, being unable to perform and on grounds of misconduct.

The ordinance seeks to fix the term — to a maximum of two – of the president and the vice-president and give the Union Health Ministry powers to make arrangements in the event the office of president falling vacant in unforeseen situations as it has arisen now. The functioning of the Medical Council of India has come to a virtual standstill following the arrest of its president, Ketan Desai, on corruption charges.

These amendments are expected to incorporate major changes suggested by the Ministry in the amendment Bill, tabled in 2005, which were turned down by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health.

Sources in the Ministry told The Hindu it was keen that the government be able to intervene in the MCI in the “larger public interest” as did the Human Resource Development Ministry in the case of the All-India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission under Section 20 (1) of the AICTE and the UGC Acts though these were nominated bodies. The MCI is an elected body with no such provision for intervention by the Centre. A provision for intervention was turned down by the Standing Committee on the ground that it would seriously jeopardise the independent working of the MCI and decision making of its president and vice-president.

Final decision

The proposed amendments to the MCI Act — if and as approved by Parliament — will continue until the government takes a final decision on whether medical education should come under the purview of the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) under the HRD Ministry or the National Council for Human Resource in Health being pushed by the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the NCHER has invited a Health Ministry representative for its final meeting later this week. This is the first time the Ministry has been invited for deliberations, though the Medical Council of India, the Dental Council of India, the Nursing Council and several other regulatory bodies in the field of health have made representations before the Commission.

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