New Delhi: The government has finally kicked off restructuring of the contentious Medical Council of India (MCI).

Without waiting for Parliament’s nod to a bill seeking replacement of the scam tainted medical education body, the government on Wednesday issued the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, setting up a committee to run MCI.

While the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2017 that seeks to overhaul the medical education system in India and replace MCI is yet to be enacted by Parliament, the term of MCI’s elected body members ends soon.

As the government believed that the passage of the NMC Bill is likely to take some time, immediate steps were needed to be taken, said aware of the developments. Thus, an ordinance to supersede MCI was promulgated and the powers of the council have been vested in a board of governors (BoG).

“The ordinance was cleared by the Union cabinet this morning and the President has now given his assent. Since the term of the elected body of the MCI is ending shortly, a need was felt to run it by a committee to run its affairs. Now, the government has appointed the BoG in supersession of MCI," Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said. “All members of the committee will be professionals of great eminence," he said.

With the ordinance coming into force, the powers of MCI switched from the elective council body to the BoG headed by V.K. Paul, member, NITI Aayog. The BoG will continue to perform till a council is constituted in line with the provisions of the Act in one year.

The board members include Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, Jagat Ram, director, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, B.N. Gangadhar, director, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, Nikhil Tandon, professor, department of endocrinology and metabolism, AIIMS, New Delhi, S. Venkatesh, directorate general of health services (DGHS) and Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research (DHR) and the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will be the ex-officio members.

“All the BoG members are eminently qualified and apolitical. It is expected that the BoG will bring about urgent and much required reforms in the field of medical education and promote access to quality healthcare for all the people of India," the ministry of health and family welfare said.

“We had our first meeting on Wednesday evening. We discussed several things focusing on how to transform the medical education in the country. There are several areas which need immediate attention," Paul said.

Amid allegations of corruption against MCI office bearers and probes into opaque accreditation to medical colleges, the Supreme Court had in May 2016 directed the government to set up an oversight committee with the authority to oversee all statutory functions of MCI till the new legislation comes in. Many MCI members have been accused of taking bribes to fast-track accreditation. In 2017, another oversight committee was set up with the approval of the apex court after expiry of the one-year term of the first panel.

The second committee was chaired by Paul. The other members of the panel included doctors from AIIMS (Delhi), PGI Chandigarh and NIMHANS. In July 2018, the committee resigned citing instances of “non-compliance of their instructions by MCI". The government has been pushing the NMC Bill amid resistance from Indian Medical Association and other sections.

The government claims that the Bill provides for simplification of procedures and is expected to spur rapid growth in the number of Under Graduate (UG) and Post Graduate (PG) seats in the country besides enhancing the governance and quality of medical education. The NMC Bill provides for distribution of functions among four autonomous boards whose members would be persons of proven ability selected through a transparent process.

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