The ministry has sought suggestions/comments or objections on the proposed amendments from the public or stakeholders within 30 days. According to NMC’s response to a right to information (RTI) application, in just seven months in 2021, the NMC rejected at least 65 appeals filed by patients against decisions of various state medical councils. In October 2021, the NMC had decided that only appeals from doctors would be taken up by the EMRB and that patients should not be allowed to file appeals before the board.
It is absurd that patients were not eligible to appeal against decisions of state medical councils, but doctors could. This welcome amendment will hopefully restore the balance.
RTI activist and ophthalmologist Dr KV Babu had written to the NMC and ministry several times challenging this decision taken by the EMRB and approved by the NMC. NMC referred to section 30(3) of the Act and stated that in a meeting of the commission held on Oct 16, 2021 it was reiterated that only medical practitioners or professionals should be allowed to file an appeal before EMRB, and that “patients should not be allowed to file appeal before EMRB” under thesection. It went on to state that it has been decided by EMRB that all appeals of non-doctors “filed on or after coming into force of the NMC Act, 2019 with effect from September 25, 2020 shall bereturned”.
Dr Babu argued that the right of patients to appeal against decisions of state medical councils was given by the Supreme Court and hence could not be taken away by the NMC. “The regulator is meant to regulate the profession in public interest. It is not a professional interest group. The NMC Act states that ‘the rules and regulations made under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, shall continue to be in force and operate till new standards or requirements are specified under this Act or the rules and regulations made thereunder’. The ethics code has not been replaced by the NMC. It continues to operate and so does clause 8. 8. So the NMC’s decision to disallow appeals of non-doctors is illegal,” argued Dr Babu.