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SC appoints former Chief Justice RM Lodha to oversee MCI’s functioning

SC Upholds Right of States to Control Admissions
But retains right of private institutions that don’t receive state aid, allows govt control in some areas; appoints former Chief Justice RM Lodha to oversee MCI’s functioning
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of state governments to control admissions, capitation fees and provide reservations in private educational institutions and appointed former Chief Justice RM Lodha, of the BCCI clean-up fame, to oversee the corruption-tainted Medical Council of India‘s (MCI) functioning in a move to arrest the declining medical education standards in the country.The Justice Lodha oversight arrangement will continue till Parliament brings in a law, preferably within a year, changing the existing MCI structure and functioning to ensure greater accountability and transparency in its functioning.

The MCI is the apex statutory body dealing with medical education in the country. It conducts inspections of colleges and clears new ones. Justice Lodha will now sit as head of a three-man oversight com mittee, which will vet all its decisions.

A five-judge Constitution bench passed this order while dealing with a challenge to a Madhya Pradesh law, which had provided for a common entrance test and also banned capitation fees in private medical colleges in the state.

The top court, however, upheld the right of such private institutions, which do not receive any state aid, to otherwise function independently of the state.

But this right would be subject to the right of a state to control admissions, provide for reservations and cap capitation fees to prevent crass commercialisation of private education. The committee will also include Prof (Dr) Shiv Sareen (Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences) and former CAG Vinod Rai.

“The committee will have the authority to oversee all statutory functions under the MCI Act. All policy decisions of the MCI will require approval of the Oversight Committee. The committee will be free to issue appropriate remedial direc tions,“ the court said.

“The committee will function till the Central government puts in place any other appropriate mechanism after due consideration of the Expert Committee Report. Initially, the Committee will function for a period of one year, unless suitable mechanism is brought in place earlier which will substitute it.“

The court noted that though a committee of experts headed by Dr Ranjit Roy Chaudhury had made a recommendation in 2014 for overhauling the existing regulatory mechanism, nothing had been done. That committee had concluded that the MCI was repeatedly found short of fulfilling its mandated responsibilities, the court observed.

“Quality of medical education was at its lowest ebb, the right type of health professionals were not able to meet the basic health need of the country. Products coming out of medical colleges are ill-prepared to serve in poor resource settings like a primary health centre and even at the district level. The medical graduates lacked competence in performing basic healthcare tasks. Instances of unethical practices continued to grow,“ it said, quoting the report.

“The MCI was not able to spearhead any serious reforms in medical education.The MCI neither represented the professional excellence nor its ethos. Nominees of Central and state governments were also from corporate private hospitals which are highly commercialised.“

“They were also found to be violating value framework and indulging in unethical practices such as carrying out unnecessary diagnostics tests and surgical procedures in order to extract money from hapless patients. The electoral processes brought about a lot of compromises and tend to attract professionals who may not be best fitted for the regulatory body.“

“Regulators of highest standards of professional integrity and excellence could be appointed through an independent selection process.“ The Central government had no power to disagree with the MCI though the Government was the main stakeholder in shaping the health schemes, it had said.

“The admission process was not satisfactory as majority of seats in private medical colleges were being allotted for capitation fee. The system keeps out most meritorious and underprivileged students.The unitary CET will tackle the capitation fee and bring about transparency.“

The committee had also remarked on the corruption in the MCI and recommended that immediate action should be taken to amend the statute and enact a new legislation, the court observed.

“Managing everything of more than 400 medical colleges is too humongous a task to be done by the MCI alone because the challenges facing medical education of the 21st century are truly gigantic and cannot be addressed with an ossified and opaque body like MCI. Transformation will happen only if we change the innards of the system.“

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