The new NMC Act, 2019 was enacted into law last month with publication in the official Gazette as the old Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 was repealed by the government. The Medical Council of India (MCI) was also disbanded as most regular functions of MCI are in limbo including adjudication of appeals (under section 8.8 of old MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002) by the hapless victims of alleged medical negligence against doctors acquitted by the state medical councils. The section 8.8 (became a law only in 2004 as a result of Supreme Court’s direction in the PIL (SC W.P. No. 317/2000) filed by PBT) was framed to give an opportunity to challenge the victims whose complaint against the errant doctor was dismissed (which is vast majority of the cases) by an often biased and one-sided decision by doctor-members in the state medical council.
But section 8.8 stipulate that any challenge to the verdict by the state medical council must be made within a maximum period of 60 days. There is no functioning MCI for the past more than 30 days. Under section 27(d) of the new NMC Act, although an aggrieved victim may lodge an appeal within 30 days to the Ethics & Medical Registration Board against an adverse decision by the state medical council, but no Ethical Board exists at the present moment and there is little hope that any such Board would be constituted in the near future as even the selection of the 33 NMC members (who in turn would form the Ethical Board) seems to be in a turmoil, possibly due to political posturing and infighting within the health ministry. But the obvious question – soon 60 days will be over for any victim whose complaint of medical negligence was dismissed by the state medical council – where will they go to appeal against any biased decision by the state medical council? The game is rigged by the influential and wealthy hospitals/doctors who would be shielded as before. The new NMC Act, 2019 is nothing more than putting an old wine in a new bottle.