19 December, 2016

The Maharashtra Medical Council Elections were held on Sunday, but there is still no clarity on the method of counting votes. Even as 20,000 of the 85,000 registered allopathic doctors eligible to cast their vote for the MMC representatives went to the polls Sunday, the election officer is yet to determine whether the votes will be counted electronically or by hand, a fact that has made some of the 49 doctors contesting the 9 MMC seats up for grabs more than a little nervous.

MMC election officer Ajit Sasulakar confirmed that he would make his decision Monday based on voter turnout. When asked if the government had selected a software for counting votes, Sasulakar said, "The government has invited bids by private firms. I cannot share any more details because it is a secret election."

The votes are scheduled to be tallied on December 23. However, some are raising questions about why the government might change the method of counting votes this late in the game.

Dr Arun Gadre, Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare, a national network of doctors committed to promoting ethical and rational health care, said, "If votes have been cast through paper ballots, how can they be counted electronically? This is absurd. It is also against norms," Gadre said.

Dr Suhas Pingle, ex-member, MMC, said, "The process cannot be determined on the whims of the election officer. There is no precedent for counting votes electronically. Also, there is no guarantee that a computerised system will be error-free. We are not against the computerised voting per se, but if votes have been cast on paper ballots, how can they be counted electronically?" This election, which takes place every five years, has gained special significance this time as doctors have alleged that the state government is attempting to `infiltrate' the MMC, the quasi-judicial body that registers doctors, hears patients' complaints against doctors involving medical negligence, looks and even bars doctors from practice.

The BJP wants the council to allow homeopathy and Ayurveda practitioners to prescribe allopathic medicine, a practice known in the medical fraternity as `crosspathy'.

The Indian Medical Association's state chapter, which won the 2009 MMC election, has vehemently opposed this, while one of the panels in fray for the council elections called the Vaidyakiya Vikas Manch, a pro-BJP body, supports this notion.

The MMC's opinion is slated to play an important role in the case before the Bombay High Court on crosspathy.