Lok Sabha Passes Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill

Minister Harsh Vardhan said the National Medical Commission Bill would soon be ushered in to reform the medical education sector.

New Delhi: The government will soon introduce a National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill to usher in comprehensive reforms in the medical education sector, health minister Harsh Vardhan said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

He said this during a debate on the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was later passed by the house by voice vote. This Bill provides for supersession of Medical Council of India for a period of two years with effect from September 26, 2018. It will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 21.

The minister said the government is working on the NMC Bill and “will soon take it to Union cabinet and then in parliament”. He said the NMC Bill, which was introduced in December 2017, lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

On the Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, the Minister said that the Board of Governors (BoG) which had replaced the MCI has worked well and taken a series of steps to improve medical education in the country.

The BoG has granted accreditation to more number of medical colleges, increased number of seats and reduced procedural hurdles, he said, adding it is manned by doctors of great repute.

“This is just the beginning of our work and you will see radical reforms in the medical education of the country,” he said.

The Indian Medical Council or the Medical Council of India (MCI) was set up under the Medical Council Act 1956, for setting standards for medical professionals, new medical colleges and revision of curriculum, among others.

Participating in the debate on the Bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury opposed the ordinance route taken by the government to supersede the Indian Medical Council, saying it was unhealthy for democracy.

Chowdhury said the ordinance was promulgated twice by the government, despite elections being round the corner. “MCI had become a scam tainted authority,” he said.

Introducing the Bill, Vardhan said in the last two decades, a perception was built that MCI has been unsuccesful in discharging its duties and that corrupt practices are prevalent in the regulatory body.

“Although the National Medical Commission Bill could be introduced in the near future, but to have legal continuity every ordinance has to be converted into a law,” he stressed.

The Bill also proposes to increase the number of members in the BoG to 12 from the existing 7.

The health ministry had come across certain arbitrary action by the MCI in disregard to the provision of IMC Act and regulations.

Further, the oversight committee constituted by the Supreme Court to oversee the functioning of MCI had also cited instances of non-compliance of their instructions. Subsequently, all its members tendered their resignation.

In view of these developments and to put an alternative mechanism in place of MCI so as to bring transparency, accountability and quality in the governance of medical education in the country, it was decided to supersede the MCI through the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, promulgated on September 26 and entrust its affairs to a board of governors consisting of eminent doctors.

Subsequently, the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 14, 2018, and passed by the house on December 31.

However, the Bill could not be taken up for consideration in the Rajya Sabha.

Accordingly, it was decided to promulgate a fresh Ordinance namely the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, to allow the board of governors appointed in view of supersession of MCI to continue to exercise powers of the MCI.