The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has reconstituted the Board of Governors for the Medical Council of India (MCI).
Noted cardiologist Dr. K.K. Talwar has been appointed as the Chairman of the new Board of Governors for the MCI. Dr. Talwar has been the Director of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh and has also worked at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
The MCI, a statutory body, tasked to oversee the standards of medical education in India, grants recognition to medical degrees, gives accreditation to medical colleges, registers medical practitioners and monitors medical practice in the country.
The government had decided to bring in an ordinance to replace the MCI with the board when its president Ketan Desai was arrested on April 22 last year by the CBI for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs two crore to give recognition to a medical college in Punjab even though it did not meet the MCI standards.
In the aftermath of Desai's resignation and setting up of the board, the government had amended the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, to insert an Article 3 (a) through an ordinance that authorised the government to intervene in matters of "national policy".
However, the board of governors led by Dr. S. K. Sarin had developed differences with the ministry on some issues, including conducting a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). The ministry was also dissatisfied with the board for its failure to increase the number of seats for postgraduate medical courses to the desired level for the current academic session.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was particularly upset with the board for its unilateral decision to introduce the controversial Entrance Test (NEET) for graduate and postgraduate medical academic programmes in India.
According to the notification, a single entrance examination was to be introduced that would be conducted for MBBS and MD courses offered by all 271 medical colleges in the country, of which 138 are operated by the government and 133 are under private management.
The proposal was strongly opposed by governments of the states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka which have a large number of private medical colleges, mostly owned by powerful politicians. These college owners earn huge money every year by admitting students from other states through management quota and hefty donations.
Under pressure from vested interests, the health ministry had declared the notification to be invalid, thereby canceling the option to bring uniformity in medical admissions and thus depriving the poor and hardworking students from entry into a medical college through a national level test.
MCI was established in 1934, under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933, which was repealed in 1956. The Council's main function is to establish uniform standards of higher qualifications in medicine and recognition of medical institutions in India and abroad. The Act was modified in 1964, 1993 and 2001.