Ketan Desai to head World Medical Association. And that's not going down well with many

Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom | First published: 25 October 2016, 13:32 IST
Ketan Desai to head World Medical Association. And that's not going down well with many

Ketan Desai, ex-Medical Council of India (MCI) chief, who has several corruption cases pending against him, has been appointed as the head of the World Medical Association (WMA).

But how did this grave mistake come to be and why is the Union Health Ministry not doing anything about it? And who is Ketan Desai and how did he manage to land this plum post despite all allegations against him?

Where it all began

In July, a Niti Aayog-constituted panel decided that it was considering replacing the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a National Medical Commission representing a board of governors appointed by the Health Ministry.

The MCI was formed after several allegations of corruption by the ministry and its much-criticised manner of granting licenses to medical colleges.

Through most of the institution's life, Ketan Desai had headed the MCI. From 2001 to 2010 he headed the council but was subsequently ousted after his arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of corruption.

MCI was dissolved after the incident. Desai's medical license was canceled by the MCI post the incident.

The MCI was reinstated in November 2013 and after the new committee was formed, Desai got back his medical license. According to activists, the new committee had many of Desai's closest aids as members.

Friends in need

Even with multiple allegations against him in various courts in the past, last Friday, Desai was appointed as the head of the World Medical Association (WMA).

The WMA is responsible for setting standards for physicians worldwide and represents millions of doctors in more than 100 countries. The American Medical Council and British Medical Council are its members.

Presently, Desai faces charges in two courts. One in New Delhi and the other in Lucknow.

Lawyers associated with the matter informed Catch that at a district court in the national capital, Desai still faces charges of corruption for allegedly accepting a bribe from a businessman to allow a Punjab-based medical college accept a higher number of medical students without the college having the basic infrastructure or faculty required for it.

In 2010, Desai was arrested by the CBI along with three aides who had assisted him in dealing with the Punjab-based Gyan Sagar Medical College. The case is still pending in court.

While the college administration denied having any arrangement with Desai, a student who wished not to be named, informed Catch that there has been a substantial increase in the intake of students since 2009 without any corresponding increase in infrastructure or faculty.

Unresolved cases

Desai also faces charges in a Lucknow, where the CBI has lodged a separate case against him. He also faces a similar corruption case where he is accused of conspiring with officials within the MCI to obtain council recommendation for another school to expand and take in more students even without having adequate faculty members or infrastructure.

College officials at Shri Ram Murti Smarak Institute of Medical Sciences wished to not comment on the matter as the case is still pending in the court.

Previously, in 2001, Desai was also accused by the Delhi High Court of misusing his position as the head of the Indian Medical Council to receive multiple 'large monetary gifts', but a subsequent investigation yielded no results leading to the case being withdrawn.

But then, how did a tainted minister become head of WMA?

People for Better Treatment (PBT), a community that fights against medical negligence, have in the past filed petitions in various courts alleging Desai of corruption and even requesting the apex court in a petition to debar him from all medical associations.

According to PBT, higher officials and Desai's close aides at the MCI and the Indian Medical Association have lied that all charges against Desai have been dropped by all Indian authorities and that he was eligible to head the WMA.

The PBT has appealed against Desai's appointment as president of WMA and has petitioned the Health Ministry to restrict the appointment.

This isn't the first time that Desai has contested for the post. In 2010, when Desai stood without any contender and before he was appointed, the CBI arrested him in the Gyan Sagar Medical School case.

The Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the MCI, HK Jethi had corroborated PBT's stand and found that the officials had intentionally lied to the WMA representatives on the matter of corruption allegations.

Desai did not respond to an email query sent by Catch.

With no action being taken in this matter so far, the responsibility to set the standards of global medical ethics seems to be in the wrong hands.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 25 October 2016, 13:32 IST
 
Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom

A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Vishakh tracks stories on public policy, environment and culture. Previously at Mint, he enjoys bringing in a touch of humour to the darkest of times and hardest of stories. One word self-description:...

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