A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court accusing an apex court-appointed Oversight Committee led by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha of over-stepping its given job of monitoring the work of Medical Council of India (MCI).
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Anil R. Dave, in a judgment in May 2016, had invoked its rare and extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to set up a three-member committee, headed by Justice Lodha, to oversee the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for at least a year. The 165-page verdict had endorsed a Parliamentary Standing Committee report of March 2016 that medical education and profession in the country is at its “lowest ebb” and suffering from “total system failure” due to corruption and decay.
The Committee, also comprises Professor (Dr.) Shiv Sareen (Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences) and Vinod Rai (former Comptroller & Auditor General of India).
In his writ petition, Vyapam whistleblower Anand Rai, alleged that the Committee overshot MCI and the Health Ministry's disapproval of hundreds of applications made by medical colleges without conducting any “fresh” inspection or assessment.
The petition claimed that the panel, in August, went on to grant recognition and allowed colleges to increase student intake and even extended the time schedule for colleges to remove deficiencies based on which MCI had recommended disapproval of their applications.
Besides its actions being in violation of the strict orders of the Supreme Court, the petition claimed that the Committee acted “not only in contravention of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution” but also exhibited its failure to “take decisions which fulfil the test of reasonableness and which are in the larger interest of the public”.
“The impugned decisions of Respondent No 3 (Lodha Committee) have the effect of compromising the standards in medical education and training in India and shall have an adverse influence on the career interests of students undertaking the undergraduate and post-graduate courses in the field of health and medicine,” the petition alleged.
The petition said that MCI had processed several proposals from medical colleges - varying from establishment of new medical colleges to renewal of permissions to increase in seats to grant of recognition to medicine courses for 2016-17.
Of this around 150 proposals for new undergraduate courses and 118 for super-specialty courses for 2016-17 were disapproved by the ministry on the recommendations of MCI after independent verifications had found several deficiencies in the colleges.
On June 13, the petition said, the Oversight Committee intervened to give these colleges a fresh opportunity to furnish their compliances by June 22 to deficiencies pointed out by the MCI.
The MCI was then asked to conduct inspections and send reports of each of these colleges to the ministry before July 20. The MCI did so, reiterating its disapproval.
The petition alleged that the Committee, at this juncture, without conducting any fresh inspection, proceeded to approve the applications of these medical colleges.
Further, the petition alleged, the Committee, on August 12 and 13, approved a “majority” of applications by medical colleges seeking renewal of permission for 2016-17 , grant of recognition for undergraduate courses and increase in intake for 2016-17.