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Nursing a mystery

Rahi Gaikwad 
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Patna High Court lambasts Bihar Nurses Registration Council for functioning for 78 long years without adequate regulationsand bye-laws in place

Lead kindly light:The nursing profession in India needs a boost.Photo: K.R. Deepak
Lead kindly light:The nursing profession in India needs a boost.Photo: K.R. Deepak

Imagine this. Since 1935, the Bihar Nurses Registration Council has been charging renewal fee from its registered members across the State every five years. Now, 78 years later, it turns out that it never had any right to do so. Devoid of any rule or regulation, the Council worked in ways, which the Patna High Court termed a “mystery”.      

Coming down heavily on the Council in a recent ruling, the court in its order dated September 10, 2013, declared the body “in the present form and content…a lame duck organisation.”

The council was established under Section 3 of the Bihar and Odisha Nurses Registration Act, 1935, when the two States were one. This law governs nurses, health visitors, and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs). Section 3 pertains to constitution of the council.

Other sections of the same act, namely 8, 15, 16 and 17 as cited by the court, pertain to the power of the council to make regulations and bye-laws. This was not done.   

“Seventy-eight years have gone past, but nobody has bothered, either in the last century or even in this century to put any regulation or rules in place…How the Council has managed to function in all these years is a mystery to me and how the Council and the State government has never bothered to look into such a legislation and the obligation created under the legislation, such as formulating bye-laws, regulations or rule, is a matter of concern for this court,” Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi observed.

Terming the requirement of renewal of registration, “an innovation of the council,” the Court held that the body, “has no powers” to mandate a renewal. “The Court wonders how a statutory body has functioned for so many years without adequate support of rules, regulations or bye-laws in place, which makes the substantive provisions of the Act unworkable.”

Asked to comment on the order, the Council’s registrar Munmun Mishra conceded to the glaring lapse. “We are an autonomous body under the Government of Bihar. The [1935] Act does not provide for renewal of registration. So that has been stopped as per the court’s order. Earlier, Bihar and Odisha were together. But when Odisha separated, they framed their own Act, but Bihar kept the same.”

The council’s functioning came under scrutiny, when it raised the renewal fee to Rs. 100 in a meeting held in 2007. After this arbitrary decision, Sunita Kumari, a nursing student, filed a petition in 2008.

In fact, Bishwanath Singh of the Bihar State Non-Gazetted Employees Federation, points out that the term of the registrar itself has expired and Ms. Mishra has been occupying the post in violation of rules. The term of nominated members is three years. “There was a notification in 2010 for reconstituting the board, but Ms. Mishra is still occupying the post. This matter was raised in both houses of the State legislature,” Mr. Singh said. 

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