Council of folly - MCI

Council of folly - MCI

Ketan Desai is in news again. This time for the huge capitation fee sting operation by the Times of India in two of the Tamil Nadu based Medical colleges. Interestingly, it has been found that in addition to being the President of the Medical Council of India, he was also in the board of both these disgraced institutions.

Going in the past, we come to know that in May 2001, the Delhi high court had asked the then MCI president Ketan Desai to step down on the ground that his term as council member was already over and elections were approaching. Desai's continuance in the office was challenged on the ground of holding two memberships - one of the council and other of the University of Gujarat . As per MCI rules, he can not continue as president while holding two positions. When it could not get complied with for certain reasons, this head of the urology department of the prestigious B J medical college, Ahmedabad was again removed as the president on charges of corruption by the Delhi High Court in November 2001. This was generally welcomed by the medical community.

At that time, Dr Arun Bal, secretary of Forum for Medical Ethics, welcomed the HC verdict and said it was long overdue. "Everybody knew he was corrupt, but no doctors or doctors' associations came forward to demand that he step down. What is worse is that the Indian Medical Association has made him their national president despite the fact that he was under a cloud for a long time." He had also asked the election procedure for MCI to be changed.

An Income tax raid on the residence of Dr Desai was also conducted in 2000 where he had reported Rs five crore as undisclosed income and gifts of Rs 65 lakh. The Delhi High Court in addition to removal had also directed the CBI to initiate prosecution proceedings against him for his involvement in corrupt practices as the division bench of Justice Arun Kumar and Justice R C Chopra had found Dr Desai guilty of misusing his official position and observed that the apex body for doctors was a den of corruption.

In another case, a division bench of the Uttaranchal High Court comprising Chief Justice A A Desai and M C Jain had already passed an order restraining Dr Desai from participating in the functioning of the MCI on a petition filed by Dr Suresh Upadhyaya alleging that Dr Desai had accepted donations for affiliation of medical colleges and recognising medical degrees as also in admitting and passing medical students.

The Supreme Court had stayed further proceedings in the writ petition before the Uttaranchal High Court on a petition filed by the Centre seeking transfer of the proceedings from the Uttaranchal High Court to the Delhi High Court as a similar petition was pending before the Delhi High Court and it would be appropriate that both the petitions were hired and disposed off by the Delhi High Court to avoid conflicting verdicts.

In a recent article titled “Is Ketan Desai king of capitation fee?” by the TOI (8 Jun 2009) it says- “He has had a vice-like grip over the Medical Council of India (MCI) for almost 20 years now.”
There are an estimated 2,500 countrywide ‘management quota’ seats available in MBBS colleges, where despite an explicit Supreme Court ban on capitation fee, a rate on the upper side of Rs 20 lakh per seat is being sought making it a staggering Rs 500 crore annually. This business is completely in the hands of Dr Desai. The TOI Article shows the influence of Dr Desai through various examples of how ministers and Prime ministers have been lying in queue to have a meeting with him. After 2001, he controlled the MCI through his nominees till he returned as chairman in March 2009, after winning a prolonged legal battle. The Article shows how people like former state health minister Ashok Bhatt and former Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss tried to curtail and regulate his and MCI’s powers but failed miserably.

Dr Sunil K Pandya from Mumbai and. Dr Samiran Nundy of Delhi, who are waging a long-battle for enforcement of medical ethics wrote an Article “Dr Ketan Desai and the Medical Council of India: Lessons to be learnt” where they said- “As is common knowledge, elections to our national and state-level medical councils are fought with just one aim: to enrich oneself personally. Expenditure of huge sums; a total lack of scruples; political connections; a compulsive desire to grab power by any means, both fair and foul and finally, ruthless pursuit of the goal of personal enrichment are absolute necessities.” He estimated the expense on the election of Presidentship to be around one crore rupee at that time, which must have gone by many times now.

They had wished that- “The workings of these councils must be totally transparent both to members of the medical profession and to the public at large.” and that- “Honest, dedicated and sincere doctors must be encouraged to stand as candidates to these councils.”

One hopes things actually start moving the way people like Dr Pandya and Dr Arun wish. Till that time, it is the day of the Desai.

Dr Nutan Thakur
(The author is the Editor of Nutan Sattah Pravah, based in Lucknow)