The Lok Sabha on Monday approved the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2012 that seeks to extend the tenure of the Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India till May 2013.

With Tathagata Satpathy (BJD) pressing for a division, the Bill was approved with 100 members voting in favour and 57, including from the Trinamool Congress, a key constituent of the United Progressive Alliance government, opposing the measure. Interestingly, Trinamool spokesman and Minister of State Sudip Bandhopadhyay was not present in the House when the Bill, relating to his Health and Family Ministry, was being discussed. After the House approved the Bill, members of the BJD and the Left walked out protesting its contents.

Heated exchanges

Earlier, there were heated exchanges between Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Maneka Gandhi (BJP). When she alleged massive corruption in granting permission for medical colleges, Mr. Azad denied the charge. This happened even as Congress president Sonia Gandhi was silently watching the proceedings.

At one stage, an angry Azad shouted at Ms. Maneka Gandhi, “You cannot level wild allegations without any evidence,” when she said crores were being demanded as bribe by the members of the MCI Board. The MCI had become a “cash cow” and it was allowed to indulge in “rampant corruption” and act in violation of its own rules and Supreme Court orders, the BJP member charged.

Maintaining that the Board was “making a mockery of all rules,” Ms. Maneka Gandhi went on to say the CBI had conducted inspections of 10 institutions and found “gross irregularities” including submission of fake or forged certificates by faculty members, fudging of records on clinical materials, and infrastructure deficiency.

Such findings should have led to cancellation of their permits but the colleges were allowed to admit fresh batches of students, she said.

At one point, Mr. Azad said no bribe or even gifts had been taken either by him or the Ministry or the MCI Board.

Earlier, replying to the debate, he said that as the process of enacting legislation to set up a National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH) would take some more time and as the term of the MCI Board was coming to an end on May 14, immediate action was required to be taken.

So it was considered necessary and expedient to increase the period of reconstitution of the MCI from two to three years, thereby automatically increasing the term of the Board by one more year.

The MCI would not be dissolved and autonomous institutions like it, the Nursing Council of India and the Dental Council of India would be subsumed in the NCHRH, Mr. Azad said.

The Bill is likely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha in the next few days.

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