New law to regulate MCI faces uncertainty


With only three weeks left for the end of the Budget Session, a law to reconstitute the scam-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI) may not be in place as the draft bill is unlikely to be cleared by both Houses within such a short period. 

The government had  promised a new regulatory structure within three years of disbanding the MCI after its president Ketan Desai was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation for accepting bribe from a private medical college. The dateline expires on May 13, 2013.

In 2010, the Health Ministry issued an ordinance, subsequently replaced by a law, to set up a new regulatory body. It was expected that a National Commission for Human Resources on Health to subsume MCI and other councils would come up. But last October the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health rejected the NCHRH bill downright.

As a last-ditch effort, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday piloted the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2013, in the Rajya Sabha seeking to form a new medical council with key changes in its legal power.

Introduced amid din, the bill seeks to prescribe a fixed tenure for the council as well as its office-bearers, broad base representation of medical colleges and allows non-resident Indian doctors to practice in India.

But considering the fact that there are only two days left in the current leg of the budget session, Parliamentarians will have only about three weeks to examine and pass the bill in both Houses. This virtually rules out screening by the standing committee.

Though there are some precedence, generally crucial bills are sent to standing committee for examination. Health ministry officials are tight-lipped on whether such a request had been made by Azad to Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari or whether it was discussed between Azad and Leader of Opposition in the Upper House Arun Jaitley. 

If the bill is sent to the House panel, then its unlikely to be passed in the second half in the Budget Session.

Among other provisions, the bill also seeks to make it mandatory for MCI to maintain an electronic medical register where re-registration is a must in every 10 years. It is necessary for an accurate assessment on the availability of doctors.

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