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Students have the most to lose in the SC-MCI power tussle

Vishakh Unnikrishnan | Updated on: 18 August 2016, 8:56 IST

In what could be termed as another blow to the authority vested in the Medical Council of India (MCI), a Supreme Court-appointed committee has overruled an MCI decision to withdraw permission from 26 newly established medical colleges across the country to hold academic courses.

The MCI had denied permission to 86 colleges for lacking faculty and infrastructure and the panel took this decision on 14 August leaving MCI officials rather discontent.

The SC committee headed by chief justice RM Lodha to look into MCI's functioning decided to stay the MCI's decision on 26 of those 86 colleges.

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These 26 colleges are now allowed to continue with the enrollment process for various courses. The committee comprised of Lodha, former CAG Vinod Rai and renowned liver expert Dr SK Sarin.

A PM-appointed panel on medical reforms has meanwhile recommended replacing the MCI with a new regulator called the National Medical Commission and sought public comments on a related draft Bill.

The Lodha committee, however, did mention that they would revisit the issue and carry out their own inspections and may change their stance.

A second chance

These 26 institutes will, however, have to give an undertaking to the MCI that they won't remain deficient when the new session starts on 30 September; and will have to provide bank guarantees worth Rs 2 crore each.

MCI had undertaken physical inspections of the colleges listed and ascertained that a decision was taken keeping the health of patients in mind.

Bearing the brunt

However, the brunt will be borne by students enrolling in theses 26 colleges this year. If the SC decides to revert to MCI's stand, those enrolled students will receive degrees that the MCI finds unfitting.

This leaves hundreds of students in a fix.

The committee, consisting of three members, have asked the colleges to submit an undertaking that they will comply with all norms and regulations that the MCI lists by the times the new session starts.

By 30 September, before the new sessions starts, the panel has said that it would inspect all of the colleges again and if deficiencies are found, it would withdraw its permission to admitting students.

Catch tried to get in touch with some of the colleges listed that included NIMRA Institute of Medical Sciences, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana Institute of Medical Sciences and Hospital (HIMS), Kaithal, Kerala Medical College; NC Medical College, Panipat (Haryana) and Saraswati Medical College, UP.

While most refused to comment, the management in colleges, including NIMRA in Andhra and Kerala Medical College, stated that they are ready for an inspection and have met all requirements as mandated.

Lack of facilities

The Union Health ministry had previously taken up the matter of lack of infrastructure and faculty in some of the colleges and the MCI had then decided to crack the whip.

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In the case of Haryana Institute of Medical Sciences and Hospital (HIMS), Kaithal, for example, the Health Ministry had already imposed a restriction and denied permission to admit students in the class of 2015-16.

Paripally Medical College in Kerala also fell into trouble after the Union Health Ministry denied an application by the state government for recognition after the college failed to give an undertaking that it would meet infrastructure and faculty demand as mandated by the MCI.

Taking it up

The contention was taken up by the Lodha committee after Member of Parliament from Kollam district in Kerala, NK Premachandran, filed a petition against the Health Ministry's move.

The MP has openly informed the regional media in the state that there are certain 'officers' trying to ensure the college does not function because of some 'vested interests.'

The state of Bihar is expected to lose close to about 250 seats because of MCI's ban. :

MCI's timing on imposing a ban on certain colleges is also questionable as it at leaves hundreds of students staring at an uncertain future and making them wonder whether their college degree would matter.

For example, MCI's decision in

October 2015

to deny approval of MBBS course in Bangalore's Shridevi Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Hospital left 150 students in the dark with classes in abeyance ever since.

The college, however, was allowed to admit students after the Karnataka High Court provided a temporary stay on MCI's decision.

According to MCI, it conducts a routine check once a year of every recognised medical college.

What is striking is that the MCI is in itself in trouble, as a PM-appointed panel on medical reforms is looking to replace the MCI. The SC-appointed Lodha committee is also tasked to look into allegations of corruption within the MCI.

So, in the midst of vacillations between the judiciary, the MCI and the Health Ministry trying to figure out whether to grant approval and trying the gauge whether colleges have requisite faculty and infrastructure to conduct courses, students are stuck in a mess from which there seems to be no easy way out.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

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First published: 18 August 2016, 8:56 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: Quipster