March 20: The CBI today arrested five “doctors”, including one in Asansol who tried to slash his wrist, for practising medicine with falsified licences they had procured by allegedly bribing officials in the Medical Council of India (MCI), the country’s apex medical regulator.
Three of the five doctors were practising in government hospitals in Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat with their falsified registration from the MCI. The other two were working in private nursing homes.
The CBI did not name the doctors for fear of alerting the middlemen involved in the alleged racket.
The agency suspects that the falsified documents may be part of a larger nationwide racket in which doctors who have acquired foreign medical degrees but have not passed the mandatory test to practise in India have procured fake registration certificates from the MCI.
“The five doctors we’ve arrested claim that they had paid between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 15 lakh to someone in the MCI to get these false documents,” CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Telegraph in New Delhi. “We believe this is the tip of an iceberg — we suspect more such doctors may be fooling patients across the country.”
Under rules governing Indian medical licensing, doctors with foreign degrees need to take a screening test conducted by the National Board of Examination to be able to get a licence from the MCI that enables them to practise in India.
“We have no mechanism today to assess the quality of education and training that students get in foreign medical colleges,” said a senior doctor in a government medical college and an MCI member who requested not to be named.
“A screening test is mandatory as the standards of education and quality of training can vary from country to country, and even within the same country,” the doctor said.
The CBI has arrested one doctor from Asansol, two doctors from Kerala and two from Gujarat. It is also investigating three other doctors against whom first information reports have been filed.
Investigators today searched the premises of these doctors and a few suspected middlemen who they believe had helped broker the deals with the MCI.
“The other three doctors named in the FIR have been detained and are being questioned by our officials. They might be arrested tonight,” Sinha said.
Confronted by the CBI sleuths, the 28-year-old Asansol-based doctor went into a bathroom and slit his wrist with a razor blade.
“Our officers snatched the razor to save him. He broke down and said he wanted to end his life to save himself from humiliation as his wedding was scheduled next week,” Sinha said in New Delhi.
The doctor, the son of a clerk in a government bank, had studied medicine in China and had taken the screening test conducted by the NBE twice but failed to clear it, police officers said in Asansol.
But he managed to procure a fake registration certificate from the MCI and bagged a contractual job as a medical officer in a primary health centre in Pandabeshwar block, according to the officers.
A preliminary probe has indicated that someone in the MCI headquarters in Delhi had generated the falsified registration certificates “in a hurry” and despatched them to the five doctors, CBI sources said.
In none of the eight cases, the candidates had passed the mandatory screening test but their names had been entered in the Indian Medical Register on the basis of alleged false registration certificates issued by the MCI.
“Some of the accused doctors have already confessed and are providing further leads on the modus operandi and the middlemen and the officials from the MCI involved in the racket,” another CBI official said.
Agency officials also raided the premises of a Meerut medical practitioner who was allegedly serving as a conduit between the MCI officials and candidates who had procured foreign degrees.
CBI officials claimed to have identified two middlemen and questioned some officials of the MCI today. “We have taken some documents from the MCI headquarters in the capital and are scanning them. More arrests are likely,” an officer said.
In 2012, around 14,000 candidates had appeared for the screening test conducted by the NBE but less than 3,500 were able to clear it. “We have concerns about the standards of medical education in some of these foreign colleges,” the MCI member said.
Given the variations in the quality of education across India, sections of doctors have been debating the need for a national test that all medical graduates even from Indian medical colleges would need to take to be able to practice medicine.