The Lok Sabha has passed a National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, aiming to conduct comprehensive reforms in the medical education sector.
The NMC Bill seeks to supersede the Medical Council of India (MCI) for a period of two years, taking effect from 26 September, 2018, during which the board of governors will run it. This board of governors will expand to a total number of twelve, increasing from the current seven members.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan commented that “a perception has set in in the last two decades that the MCI has been unsuccessful in discharging its duties and corrupt practices are prevalent in the regulatory body. The IMC Bill is the need of the hour,”
The MCI has been operating in the country for over half a century. The Council was set up under the Medical Council Act 1956, for the purpose of setting standards for medical professionals, establishing new medical colleges and revision of the medical curriculum.
The Supreme Court, following allegations of corruption in some of those holding office within the MCI had directed the government to constitute an oversight committee in May 2016. The oversight committee had reach over all functions of the MCI. In 2017, another oversight committee was set up with the approval of the Supreme Court.
As of July 2018, the committee overseeing the MCI resigned, citing instances of “non-compliance of their instructions by the MCI”. It was this resignation of the committee that led to the drafting of the Bill intended to supersede the Council.
Despite being cited as a means to improve transparency within the medical community, the Bill does not come without its opponents. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury opposed the ordinance route taken by the government to supersede the Indian Medical Council, claiming that the method taken by the government was unhealthy for democracy.
Resistance has also come from the Indian Medical Association (IMA). Their opposition is largely focused on the fact that the governing body which would take charge following the disposition of the MCI would be largely formed of unelected officials, rather than formed from the wider body of the Indian medical community. The group launched several strikes last year in response. It is likely such strikes will occur in the future as India’s medical establishments rally against the Bill.