Gujarat Medical Council challenges MCI’s power to take punitive action against doctors
New Delhi: Challenging the administrative powers of apex regulatory body of doctors in India, the Gujarat Medical Council (GMC) has come in full support of Dr Ketan Desai on being appointed as the head of urology department at B J Medical College, Ahmedabad despite the fact that suspension of his medical license is still in force.
In a categorical letter to the Medical Council of India (MCI) on August 29, Gujarat Medical Council has questioned the powers of MCI to take disciplinary action not only against Dr Desai but also against any doctor who is registered with any state medical council in India.
In October 2010, the MCI temporarily suspend Dr Desai’s license to practice medicine on a complaint filed by Dr Kunal Saha, president, People for Better Treatment (PBT), against Dr Desai. On 22nd April, 2010, Dr Desai, then president of MCI, had been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while taking bribe from a private medical college in Punjab allegedly in exchange of granting it the MCI recognition. While Dr Desai is out on bail, his suspension has not been revoked by the MCI as the matter is still under investigation.
In August 2013, the Gujarat government reinstated Dr Desai as the head of urology department at B J Medical College, Ahmedabad on which the MCI asked for clarifications from the Gujarat Medical Council.
In a staunch reply, the Gujarat Medical Council said, “MCI also does not have the jurisdiction to issue any direction to any State Medical Council for suspending the registration of any medical practitioner enrolled/registered with any State Medical Council”.
The situation has led to some confusion over the division of powers between State Medical Councils and the MCI.
Dr M C Gupta, a medico-legal expert based in New Delhi, while giving legal opinion on the issue told India Medical Times, “By law State Medical Councils are independent of the Medical Council of India. Every state establishes its own medical council independently and any doctor who passes from a state and wants to practice has to get registered with the respective State Medical Council. State Medical Councils in any case do not come under the Medical Council of India.”
“State Medical Councils can take actions against the doctors registered with them and the appeal lies with the MCI. Here State Medical Councils primarily have a bigger role than the MCI. In the present case, the Gujarat Medical Council’s legal stand to allow Dr Desai to practice medicine is correct and justifiable.”
“I understand that in last two-three cases the Supreme Court and High Courts have interpreted that MCI can take actions against erring doctors, but they were only special cases. It does not make an umbrella rule for every case related to cancellation of license by State Medical Councils. In my view Dr Desai can practice medicine if he has been permitted to do so by his respective State Medical Council,” he added.
The point has also been established in the Gujarat Medical Council’s letter which reads, “In any case it is found to be conclusive position with MCI and continuing to be so till date that registration of a registered medical practitioner shall not be suspended by MCI until a registered medical practitioner is “convicted” by competent court of law.”
Giving his opinion on the controversy, Dr Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a former member of the MCI Board of Governors, told India Medical Times, “Ideally if MCI has debarred Dr Ketan Desai from practicing medicine, Gujarat Medical Council should have respected its decision. It’s true that State Medical Councils are separate from Medical Council of India and legally they can reinstate any state registered doctor and also approach MCI over any indiscipline shown by a doctor. But the Gujarat Government should have consulted MCI and its consent should be taken before making such a decision as MCI is national regulating body.”