The Supreme Court on 2 April appointed a three-member high-powered committee headed by former Chief Justice of India Rajendra Mal Lodha to clean up the system by taking over the functions of the Medical Council of India (MCI).
The apex court exercised these rare and extraordinary powers, as bestowed upon it by the Constitution, following inaction by the government on report ‘The Functioning of the Medical Council of India’ of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, tabled in Parliament on March 8, 2016.
Besides Justice (retired) Lodha, the Committee includes Dr Shiv Sarin (Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences) and Vinod Rai (former Comptroller and Auditor General of India).
The Court said the Committee will have the authority to oversee all statutory functions under the MCI Act and that all policy decisions of the MCI will require approval of the Oversight Committee. The Committee, which will be free to issue appropriate remedial directions, will initially function for a year, unless a suitable mechanism is brought in place.
Key areas of reform
The judgment highlighted the immediate areas of reform in the Indian medical education system, such as lack of competence of medical graduates in performing basic healthcare tasks and continuous growth in ethical practices. Additionally, it categorically mentioned that the system keeps out most meritorious and underprivileged students due to the unsatisfactory admission process in private medical colleges, where the majority of seats are being allotted for capitation fee.
It further states that due to deep-rooted corruption prevalent in MCI and among its members, medical professionals have also been found indulging in unethical practices, such as carrying out unnecessary diagnostic tests and surgical procedures to extract money from hapless patients.
The judgment stresses that the law needs to be amended, as the Centre has no power under the present system to disagree with MCI and give policy directives to the regulatory body. Besides, the existing system of graduate medical education also needs to be reinvented, it adds.
Status of medical examination
The bench also upheld Madhya Pradesh Government’s 2007 order to conduct a common entrance test for all government and private medical and dental colleges, which had been challenged by unaided private colleges.