29 July, 2016

State issues show-cause notice to quasi-judicial body, giving it 15 days to put its house in order; the notice follows a month-long inquiry into MMC's functioning.

With a state-appointed inquiry panel alleging irregularities in the functioning of Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), the tussle between the government and the quasi-judicial body has escalated.

The panel, set up a month ago to review MMC's workings, takes issue with many of its decisions, including renovation of its Chinchpokli office, grant of concessions under a licence renewal scheme, and holding of an awards function in April.

On Wednesday, the regime slapped MMC with a show-cause notice directing it to address the issues raised in the panel's report in 15 days, or prepare to be dissolved.

MMC is an autonomous body that serves as an ethical watchdog, grants registrations and looks into cases of medical negligence. It consists of 18 members.

This move by the government has now taken the longdrawn tussle for power over the council to a new direction.

Sources at the Mantralaya told Mumbai Mirror that the 35-page notice was issued to the chairman of MMC on July 27, citing clause 31 of the Maharashtra Medical Council Act (1965), which states that in case the council failed to address issues pointed out by a showcause notice from the government, the government has the power to dissolve the council. The same rule also grants the government power to appoint an administrator to the council for two years and then the government can constitute a new council.

Dr Kuldip Kohli, director of Ayurveda Maharashtra, had been appointed as the head of the inquiry committee. He confirmed with this paper that he has submitted his 'confidential' report on his findings but refused to divulge its details.

However, sources told Mumbai Mirror, "The Kohli committee has pointed out many irregularities in MMC's working, including an award ceremony organised by them in Nagpur in April. The committee found gross irregularities and so the notice has been issued."

Dr Kishor Taori, President, MMC confirmed that a notice had indeed been sent. "I am yet to receive the notice as it is coming by post. I can comment on it after I receive it," he added.

But Dr Jayesh Lele, president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said, "Everything at MMC was done legally. There is no question of irregularities. The autonomy of the MMC is at risk because of the government."

Tussle for power

The present council of MMC doctors, who were elected five years back, had fought a bitter two-year court battle with state officials to finally assume office in 2011. The elections themselves were held after a decade due to various power struggles within the council and government.

Incidentally, the inquiry committee was set up around the same time that the state chose to appoint an ayurveda professor Dr Dilip Wange as MMC registrar. The decision has upset allopathic doctors and prompted IMA to move the Bombay High Court. Wange's appointment only managed to rile MMC more. These appointments were seen as another attempt by the BJP government to seize control of various institutions.

Apart from the contentious issue of crosspathy (a practice that allows an ayurvedic doctor to prescribe allopathic medicines and vice-versa) that both Wange and Kohli advocate and MMC's allopathic doctors and IMA oppose, the council also blames the government for a deliberate delay in issuing a directive for them to hold new elections, despite being given three reminders before the expiry of the present council's tenure.

Govt's agenda

Meanwhile, objecting to the government acting on an issue that is sub judice, Dr Suhas Pingle, executive committee member of the MMC, told Mumbai Mirror, "It makes one question the intentions of the government as it issued this notice despite the matter being in court."

Referring to the past delays initiated by the Congress-NCP government, Dr Pingle added: "The previous instance of causing deliberate delay in letting us take reins and this shows that the BJP government want to enter this autonomous body. They have agendas such as granting legal sanction to crosspathy."

He pointed out that the MMC executive committee had reminded the government on three occasions -- April 7, May 10 and May 25 - to issue a directive for the election.

But the government, late on Thursday, appointed a returning officer to oversee elections and said that the process would commence soon when asked about it by the Bombay High Court, while hearing the IMA's case last week.

But IMA's Dr Lele pointed out that this show cause notice was contradictory to what the state said in court.

The Minister of Medical Education Girish Mahajan and the secretary of medical education did not respond to repeated attempts of communication.

The case is set for another hearing at the Bombay High Court today.