(Raj K Raj/HT)
(Raj K Raj/HT)

National Medical Commission Act has two key contradictions

The NMC Act 2019 contemplates a national exit test (NEXT), which would be serving the purpose of NEET

There are two fundamental contradictions and inconsistencies in the National Medical Commission (NMC) Act, 2019, which are self-evident and cannot be taken care of in any manner through issuance of rules or regulations as contemplated under the said Act.

Section 15(1) of the NMC Act 2019 contemplates a national exit test (NEXT) which explicitly would be for the purpose of ‘licensing’ and in terms of clause 15(5) would be serving the purpose of national eligibility and entrance test (NEET) towards admission to postgraduate courses in broad specialities. However, nowhere it is explicitly worded that it would be for the purposes of conferment of MBBS degree (graduation degree).

This needs to be taken serious note of that in terms of the scheme as contemplated under section 15(1) of the Act, the three examinations, namely first MBBS, second MBBS, and third MBBS (part-I) will be conducted by the concerned examining university. However, the fourth MBBS (part-II), will be the NEXT as included in the present Act and will be conducted by a designated agency by the government of India in the form of a common examination across the country. It is a matter of reality that all the examining universities in the country confer MBBS graduate degree exclusively on the strength of all the four examinations— first MBBS, second MBBS, MBBS part-I and MBBS part-II conducted by them. Conferment of MBBS degree by the concerned university—which alone is entitled for the same under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 read with Indian Medical Universities Act, 1916—would not be entitled to confer the said degree on the strength of the fourth examination (MBBS part-II as NEXT) not conducted by it, which would create a huge chaos of unimaginable magnitude. As if the said dichotomy was not enough, the NMC Act 2019 is plagued by yet another dichotomy under section 32. It is worthwhile to note that ‘community health worker’ contemplated under section 32 of the Act would be entitled to limited licence under section 32(2) therein. However, Section 32(3) clearly stipulates that in case such a community health worker is to prescribe modern medicine in domains other than the primary and preventive domains, he/she may do so under the supervision of medical practitioners registered under sub-section 1 of section 32. The question, therefore, is how does a community health worker registered under section 32(1) become a medical practitioner entitled to supervise another community health worker entitling him to prescribe medicine outside the ambit of primary and preventive healthcare? In real sense, every community health worker is entitled to limited practice in primary and preventive healthcare and cannot go beyond including the so-called medical practitioner who is to supervise. In doing so, provision in section 32(3) to this effect renders section 32(1) totally redundant.

Santanu Sen is a member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and national president of the Indian Medical Association.

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