Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

NMC vs MCI: Medical Education Is The Collateral Damage

RK Vats, Secretary, National Medical Commission has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court and asked for a stay on the High Court order.

File photo

The new medical education regulator – the National Medical Commission has challenged the Delhi High Court’s order in which it permitted the employees of erstwhile regulator Medical Council of India to attend office.

RK Vats, Secretary, National Medical Commission has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court and asked for a stay on the High Court order. The apex court has listed the matter for hearing on November 6.

Meanwhile, the NMC has shut down from November 4 without giving any notice to its employees. 

“I came to attend office yesterday but the guard deployed at the gate said that it was a holiday. I thought the government might have declared a holiday on the occasion of Karva Chauth,” a contractual employee recently joined said requesting anonymity. 

“Today, when I came to office, I have been told the same thing,” he said.

MCI employees have alleged that the NMC has taken this decision only to frustrate the Delhi High Court order.

On November 3, the High Court has expressed anguish for asking 92 MCI employees to vacate the building on October 5 with immediate effect.

The High Court was surprised to notice that the government is disbursing the monthly salaries of all the 92 employees but not taking any work from them.

“…there is no good reason why public money should be frittered away by preventing the petitioners (MCI employees) from discharging their duties,” a bench headed by Justice Hima Kohli said. 

“To circumvent and frustrate the orders passed by High Court the NMC Secretariat was shut down on November 4 and 5, so that employees of erstwhile MCI cannot resume their duties,” MCI employees said.

They added, “Scores of persons who have their applications for a registration certificate or eligibility certificate or matters relating to Medical Colleges had to return empty-handed."

Old-timers recall that in 87 years of history of a medical regulator such shutdown has happened for the first time.”

Why has the issue started?

The dispute between the government and the MCI employees started in 2019 when the National Medical Commission Act, which was passed to replace the Medical Council of India, made a provision for their termination.

It was alleged that all the employees of MCI were involved in corruption hence they would not be accommodated in the NMC.

When the consultation process for the legislation was going on, the parliamentary standing committee had advised the government to protect the employment of lower-level workers but the government ignored it.

After the NMC Act came into effect on August 8, 2019, the employees approached Delhi High Court and questioned the termination of a vague and sweeping allegation of corruption. The court had granted a status quo on November 11, 2019.

Under the court order, the MCI employees were attending the NMC office regularly. However, the ministry on October 5, 2020, issued a circular and said that according to the high court order, their services would continue but they would have to vacate the building.

The employees protested the circular calling it a violation of the court’s status quo order and approached the high court.

On November 3, the High Court not only stayed the government October 5 order but it also issued a notice asking why contempt proceeding cannot be initiated against the government and NMC officials.