The Bombay High Court Division Bench comprising of Justices S.C.Dharmadhikari and B.P.Colabawalla dismissed Writ Petitions involving common challenge to the orders of Medical Council of India (MCI) and Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) against doctor-petitioners for breach of professional code of ethics. All the petitioners who had allegedly furnished false information regarding appointment of faculty members in various institutions of medical education during inspections carried out by the Council were removed by MMC from the State rolls for 5 years as per the direction of MCI.
The petitioners pointed out that Section 24 of Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 has envisaged only a consultative or supervisory role of Medical Council of India and the disciplinary jurisdiction over the doctors on state rolls was vested with the State Medical Council. According to them, MCI has no powers to initiate disciplinary actions. They also submitted there were no compliances of natural justice in terms of fair enquiry, hearing and opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses against them.
On the other hand, it was contended on behalf of the MCI that if the standards of medical education and practice are prescribed by it and it is empowered to do so in law, then equally for its breach and its violation, MCI can take disciplinary measures and actions. MCI also submitted that it cannot remain a silent spectator where some doctors became part of a systemic breach and violation of Indian Medical council Act, 1956, its Code of Ethics and Regulations, for petty financial gains. It has to be ensured that standards of medical education and integrity of the noble professions of doctors and teachers have to be upheld and protected at all costs.
After having considered the rival submissions the court observed that merely fact that the doctor is registered as such by a State Council, does not mean the MCI has no power to deal with and proceed against him. “Such a stand would render Regulations 8.1 and 8.2 of the IMC Regulations nugatory and meaningless. Thus, the MCI has power to order the removal of the petitioners' name from the register altogether or for a specified period,” the court said.
“We are in complete agreement, therefore, with Mr.Gole that the Council has original and appellate power as well in terms of the IMC Regulations. Once these Regulations and all the chapters thereof are read together and harmoniously, it is evident that nothing which is a misconduct or an infamous conduct, can go without a disciplinary enquiry and unpunished.
If the larger public interest is to be served and bearing in mind the role of medical practitioners and physicians, then such comprehensive regulations and measures have to be enacted. Having enacted them, a meaning will have to be placed on its clauses enabling the Councils to deal with the misconduct and/or infamous acts. That would be advancing the remedy. A narrow or restricted interpretation is likely to frustrate and defeat the IMC Act itself. Therefore, we are not in agreement with the learned counsel for the Petitioners insofar as the jurisdiction, power and authority of Council are concerned”. The Court added.
The court also observed that petitioners were heard by the Ethics Committee and thereafter it submitted its report to the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors took the ultimate decision by accepting the report and the petitioners had admitted that they had obtained the appointments wrongfully and illegally. “A bare assertion of breach of principles of natural justice without a proof of resultant prejudice cannot, therefore, be accepted and such a complaint cannot be upheld," added the Court.
Read the Judgment here.
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