DNB controversy: Govt deals MCI fresh blow on teachers’ eligibility

The war between the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the health ministry escalated by another notch with the ministry issuing a public notice rendering void an MCI decision on teacher eligibility qualifications.

The latest stand-off comes close on the heels of the recent fracas between the council and the ministry regarding slashing of medical college seats. On that occasion, the MCI after some resistance relented by restoring all seats in government medical colleges, but stuck to its stance of not restoring seats in private medical colleges. 

The ministry's public notice was regarding the MCI's decision to make DNB (diplomate of national board) holders ineligible to teach without their doing three more years of training in a recognized medical college. The notice stated that the MCI letter dated April 9, 2014 was "void ab-initio". It went on to add: "Such kind of instructions which are contrary to the provisions contained in IMC Act, 1956, rules and regulations issued by Medical Council of India (MCI) without prior approval of the ministry of health & family welfare are not valid." 

It further stated: "The observations made by the executive committee in its meeting held on 14.03.2014 regarding permissibility and equivalence of DNB degree are untenable in view of Teachers' Eligibility Regulations Amendment Notification dated 11.06.2012 which was notified after wide consultation and approval of the competent authority." 

In the last week of June the ministry had written a sharp letter to MCI president Jayshree Mehta pointing out that the council could not overrule the provisions of a 2009 gazette notification which put DNB on par with MD and other PG degrees. It also said that the MCI's circulars to all medical colleges and state health secretaries regarding amendment of teacher eligibility qualification and DNB equivalence were to be kept in abeyance. 

However, when the president of the Association of National Board Accredited Institutions (ANBAI) wrote to the MCI seeking clarification, the MCI continued to insist on the validity of its decisions. This forced ANBAI to once again seek clarity from the ministry. 

The National Board of Examination, which administers the DNB course, had also written to the MCI seeking an explanation for its attempt to amend the equivalence of DNB. But the MCI had responded by insisting that its decisions were "totally in consonance with the rules, regulation, authority and jurisdiction vested with the council".

This had created confusion as many medical college refused to hire DNB holders as teaching faculty, forcing the ministry to issue the public notice. 

Earlier, health minister Harsh Vardhan had expressed unhappiness over the way in which the MCI was restoring seats only in government medical colleges and not in private colleges. "Rules have to be applied equally. The MCI cannot have two different standards for medical colleges and medical education in the country whether in government-run or private medical colleges. This is an attempt to dilute standards and bring down the quality of education in government-run institutions," said a council member.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka high court has asked MCI to reconsider the case of eight private medical colleges to increase the number of seats and open new institutes on a petition filed by these colleges.

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