Supreme Court Slams Govt, MCI For Slashing Over 4,000 MBBS Seats
The government issued disapproval letters to 46 medical colleges, including 41 private institutions, having 3,685 MBBS seats and five government medical colleges with 235 seats for 2014-2015. (Photo: iStockPhotos)

Blame Game

  • Supreme Court slams the Centre and MCI on the issue of pending applications of medical colleges seeking approval
  • Union health ministry in its affidavit dodges responsibility, points fingers at MCI
  • Inaction on part of the government and MCI comes to light at a time when strength of doctors in India estimated to be only 9.29 lakh

The Centre and the Medical Council of India (MCI) together cut a staggering 4,020 seats in MBBS courses in government-run and private medical colleges over two academic sessions (2014 and 2015), causing “loss of opportunity to the students’ community” and society in terms of fewer doctors being available to fulfill the deficient supply and increasing demand.

Taking strong exception to the lackadaisical stance adopted by the Centre and MCI in taking decision on pending applications filed by existing and new medical colleges seeking approval, the Supreme Court on August 20 slammed the two authorities, saying “they must show due diligence right from the day when the applications are received.”

A three-judge bench comprising Justices Anil R Dave, Vikramajit Sen and Uday Umesh Lalit that heard at least 21 petitions filed by aggrieved medical colleges said that “it is expected of these authorities to discharge their functions well within the law as well as in conformity with the regulations.”

The rules related to the criteria for granting approval for setting up new medical colleges, additional intake of fresh students to MBBS course and renewal of permission to the colleges which claim to have rectified the anomalies in their functions.

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Health Ministry Affidavit

Seeking dismissal of the law suits which blamed the government and MCI for inept handling of their concerns, the Union health ministry had filed an affidavit providing details of the seat allocation and colleges.

The affidavit revealed that the total intake capacity of MBBS seats in the country was increased from 51,598 in 2013-2014 to 54,348 in 2014-2015. It was pointed out by the court that the government didn’t allow renewal of 3,920 seats in 2014-2015, which was a net loss of 1,170 MBBS seats that session. On its part, the MCI disapproved renewal of 8,667 seats.

However, renewal permission for 4,747 MBBS seats for 73 government medical colleges was granted by the health ministry on July 15, 2014, which was the deadline. This didn’t yield any benefit to new aspirants or the institutions.

In addition, the government issued disapproval letters to 46 medical colleges, including 41 private institutions, having 3,685 MBBS seats and five government medical colleges with 235 seats for 2014-2015.

But the disapproval of 3,920 seats was limited to the colleges which had been in the queue for their inauguration.

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Common Grievances

The judgment is a fallout of the common grievance raised by the colleges highlighting inaction by MCI and the government in dutifully performing their job well in time.

It was pointed out that MCI had found certain deficiencies during its inspection of medical colleges. These deficiencies were pointed out to the colleges which were told to rectify them at the earliest.

The petitioners led by one Royal Medical Trust had told the court that either the deficiencies were wrongly noted or they had been rectified since then. The colleges also reported compliance of the action taken by them.

Reverification Plea

These medical colleges had urged the Centre and MCI to revisit the institutions for verification. Instead, the government simply sent letters to them saying their compliance report had been rejected. The government disapproved their plea “without taking any steps to assess or verify the compliance report.”

Once compliance was reported, MCI and government were “obliged to assess whether such deficiencies stood removed or not. The inability of MCI to perform its statutory obligation and initiate appropriate action within the timeframe has penalised the respective colleges for no fault of theirs,” the bench said, expressing dismay.

The judges have asked MCI and the Centre to “arrange their affairs” so that colleges could rectify the deficiencies within time. “Having pushed the concerned colleges close to the deadline, the MCI and the central government cannot then take refuge under the rules and project their inability to carry out any compliance verification,” the court said.

The inaction on the part of the government and MCI has come to light at a time when the Union health ministry recently told Parliament that the strength of doctors in India was 9.29 lakh. Assuming 80% of them were available, the health minister said it was estimated that around 7.4 lakh doctors might be actually available for active service.