13 August, 2016

TUSSLE CONTINUES: A fortnight after threatening to dissolve the Maharashtra Medical Council, the state looks at options to take control of the autonomous body; opinion of Law and Judiciary Department sought on the feasibility of such an action.

A fortnight after the state government issued a show-cause notice to the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), saying it could be dissolved for alleged irregularities, the Medical Education Department has sought the Law & Judiciary Department's advice on whether such an action was feasible.

The 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.

The Mantralaya sources said that not only does the state government want a dissolution of the MMC, it also seeks to appoint an administrator to take charge of the MMC funds and properties till a new committee is formed. The sources said that the JJ Hospital dean, noted eye surgeon Dr TP Lahane, has been approached to take over as the administrator.

"The state wants an administrator to take charge of the MMC for at least six months, and Lahane sounded positive about taking up this responsibility. However, it won't be easy for the government to take control of the MMC," a Mantralaya source said. Lahane remained unavailable for comment.

Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan said that the Law & Judiciary Department was expected to revert within a week. "Once the department sends in its inputs, we will come up with a plan," he said. Mahajan has also scheduled a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the MMC matter.

The state government and the MMC have been at the loggerheads for several years now. The present council of MMC doctors, who were elected five years ago, had fought a two-year court battle with the state officials to finally assume office in 2011.

Recently, the state appointed an inquiry panel, headed by Kuldip Kohli, director of Ayurveda Maharashtra, to look into the alleged irregularities in the functioning of the MMC. Some of the alleged irregularities are related to the renovation of the MMC's Chinchpokli office, grant of concessions under a licence renewal scheme, and holding of an awards function in Nagpur in April.

The Kohli Committee submitted a confidential report to the government, which issued MMC a show-cause notice on July 25, saying it had 15 days to put its house in order or face dissolution.

In its reply to the state government, the MMC said, "The executive committee is rather shocked and surprised to receive your notice/letter threatening to dissolve the MMC. We wish to draw your attention to the fact that in the writ Petition which came up for hearing in the high court on July 29, the statement of the government has been recorded that a returning officer has been appointed to conduct fresh elections of the MMC. The matter is sub-judice and your notice is rather uncalled for and smacks of undue haste and mala fide intent."

According to the MMC, its problems with the state government have arisen because of its objection to crosspathy (a practice that allows ayurvedic doctors to prescribe allopathic medicines and viceversa).

In its reply to the state government notice, the MMC said, "You have, with ulterior motives, appointed a committee consisting of interested ayurveda practitioners to look into the allegations levelled against the president of the MMC. The report submitted by the said committee is obviously biased in the favour of government, and against the interest of MMC. The entire attempt is to dissolve the MMC on one ground or the other and appoint an administrator, so that government can overcome the valid and legal objections raised by the MMC on the issue of cross-pathy."

Dr Suhas Pingle, an executive member of the MMC, told Mumbai Mirror that the council won't succumb to arm-twisting tactics. "Why is the government not keen on elections when the returning officer has been appointed? Instead of dissolving the council, let's have fresh elections. In February 2017, the renewal of 80,000 doctors' licences is due. Without the MMC, who will do that work?" Pingle asked.