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Medical council gets more teeth

New Delhi, Sept. 23: The Supreme Court today authorised the Medical Council of India to transfer to itself complaints of negligence against doctors if the state medical council concerned does not initiate action within six months of the complaint being registered.

A division bench of Justices M.B. Shah and Ashok Bhan, which resumed hearings on a public interest litigation filed by the secretary of People for Better Treatment, Malay Ganguly, also gave the MCI “appellate” jurisdiction over all state medical councils.

Appeals against a decision of the state medical council will now be heard by the MCI.

This is the first time the law has been interpreted and settled by the apex court to grant “appellate jurisdiction” to the MCI. So far, the council has been claiming that it lacks the powers to take action against errant doctors registered with state medical councils.

A peculiar situation had arisen as the state medical councils contended that they could not take action against a doctor registered with them but practising in some other state. The states where the doctor concerned practised argued that they could not take action either because the doctor was registered elsewhere.

Now the MCI will receive the complaints and hear them. Any aggrieved party not satisfied with investigation by a state medical council can also appeal to the MCI.

Further, if a complaint is not acted upon within six months, as stipulated under Section 8.4 of the Code of Medical Ethics, 2002, it will automatically be transferred to the MCI.

This rule was brought into the Medical Ethics Code through the PIL. The apex court asked attorney-general Soli Sorabjee to take the steps necessary to implement the new rules while adjourning the hearing for four weeks.

Malay Ganguly and his brother-in-law Kunal Saha, a US-based doctor, lost their wives because of medical negligence.

Two Calcutta-based doctors were convicted in a criminal case by the Alipore trial court and their appeal is pending before Calcutta High Court. But a PIL has been filed in the apex court, seeking more accountability from the MCI.

Senior counsel M.. Krishnamani, appearing for the petitioners, contended that a doctor convicted by a trial court should have their licence suspended and be banned from practising medicine. This issue and others relating to establishment of medical colleges under the continuous monitoring of the MCI will come up for hearing after four weeks.

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