Government to have a say in medical council

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The government will play a more active role in the functioning of the scandal-hit Medical Council of India (MCI) in order to prevent concentration of power that can lead to corruption, official sources said on Tuesday.

Stung by the arrest of MCI president Ketan Desai on charges of taking bribes to recognise a medical college in Punjab, the health ministry wants to arm itself with powers so as to intervene if charges of misconduct are hurled against the council's members.

Presently, the MCI is a body of elected members and the government has no right to intervene in its affairs.

Under the proposed changes, the health ministry will have the authority to take charge of the council if the president's post falls vacant, the sources said.

The government can also nominate members for vacant posts, including that of the vice president.

A draft legislation also seeks to limit the terms of the president and vice-president to a maximum of two.

Also, it will give the central government power to dissolve the executive committee or dismiss its office bearers under specified conditions.

The MCI is a statutory body that oversees the standards of medical education in India.

It grants recognition to medical degrees, gives accreditation to medical colleges, registers medical practitioners, and monitors medical practice in the country.

An earlier amendment along the same lines in 2005 was rejected by a parliamentary committee on the plea that it will destroy the autonomy of the prestigious institution. 

But the mood in the health ministry changed after last month's stunning arrest of Desai for allegedly taking Rs.2 crore in bribe for recognising a medical college in Punjab though it did not meet MCI's quality standards.

After Desai's arrest, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had told parliament that the Medical Council Act will be amended to give greater authority to the government vis-a-vis the council.

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