Plea in Madras High Court seeks medical college assessment reports; notices issued to NMC, health ministry

NMC has stopped publishing medical college infrastructure assessment reports. They help students make decisions during NEET counselling.

NMC has failed to upload any medical college assessment reports for the past three years. (Representative Image: MGHMC Jabalpur)NMC has failed to upload any medical college assessment reports for the past three years. (Representative Image: MGHMC Jabalpur)

Sanjay | January 4, 2024 | 05:56 PM IST

NEW DELHI: A plea has been moved in the Madras High Court on Wednesday seeking the timely publication of medical colleges’ infrastructure assessment reports inspected by National Medical Commission (NMC).

The plea filed by Dr Mohamed Khader Meeran, an independent medical practitioner, has sought the infrastructure reports from the academic year 2020-21 to 2023-24. It has also asked that the historical assessment records be made available on the official website of NMC before the start of all-India counselling for medical college admissions each year.

The bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Bharatha Chakravathy briefly heard the matter on Wednesday and posted it for further hearing on January 19.

The court has issued notice to the Union health ministry, NMC and Directorate General of Health Services, (DGHS) in the public interest litigation (PIL) case filed by Meeran, a doctor based in Tiruchirapalli.

Medical Colleges: Lack of transparency

Meeran’s plea alleged that there is a lack of transparency in medical college assessments. It pointed out that after coming into existence in September 2020, NMC has deleted all annual assessment reports of medical colleges for the last 10 years (2011-2020) from the official website.

“Further from 2020 onwards, NMC is not disclosing assessment reports of medical colleges [on] the official website. It is also refusing to disclose the reports of medical colleges to the applications filed through Right to Information Act, 2005,” the plea stated.

In his plea, Meeran submitted that disclosure of assessment reports is crucial for ensuring transparency and accountability in the field of medical education. The assessment reports can be especially useful at the point of NEET counselling – the process after the entrance exam (NEET) through which seats are assigned to qualifying candidates. “It enables aspiring medical students to make informed decisions about their choice of college, and it directly impacts the quality of education and the standard of healthcare professionals produced by these institutions,” he said.

NMC has failed to upload any medical college assessment reports for the past three years, raising concerns about the transparency of the evaluation process, Meeran said.

CIC order for NMC

In March last year, the Central Information Commission (CIC) advised the NMC to upload infrastructure and related assessment reports of medical colleges on its official website, But, NMC did not take any action to publish medical college assessment reports on its official website prompting Meeran to write to the prime minister's office (PMO) and the union health ministry requesting the disclosure of infrastructure assessment reports of all medical colleges.

In his plea, Meeran has stated that the non-disclosure of the assessment reports by NMC is “not only a violation of the CIC's orders, but also a failure to fulfill its legal obligations under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 and relevant sections of Right to Information Act”.

On June 2, 2023, NMC published a gazette notification titled “Establishment of New Medical Institutions, Starting of New Medical Courses, Increase of seats existing courses & Assessment and Rating Regulations 2023”. It stated that “Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB) of NMC shall make available on its website or otherwise in the public domain the latest annual assessment results and ratings of medical colleges or medical institutions, in such a manner as to facilitate public understanding and consumption.” MARB of NMC grants permission for establishment of a new medical institution, to start any postgraduate course and to increase the number of seats.

Author of Patients’ Rights in India, Meeran has said in his plea that this regulation was in violation of CIC order as “MARB of NMC will publish only the final latest annual assessment ratings and results of Medical Institutions, not the entire assessment report on the basis of which the ratings and results are prepared”.

Medical College Reports: Madras HC PIL

In response to Meeran's representation and alleging violation of CIC orders, the NMC claimed that it has complied with the CIC’s order by publishing the regulations. However, within a week, the NMC refused to provide an assessment report of Stanley Medical College (Chennai) – sought by the petitioner through a Right to Information (RTI) application – stating that medical college assessment reports contain personal information and cannot be shared.

“Frustrated by such irrelevant responses and a lack of compliance with CIC orders and Right to Information Act,” Dr. Mohamed Khader Meeran filed a PIL in the Madras High Court. “If the CIC orders were complied with, how can NMC refuse to share the assessment reports by changing its stand the very next week?” he asked.

Meeran explained: "Refusing to disclose assessment reports containing the list of doctors and teaching faculties in a medical college under the pretext of considering it personal information is entirely unfounded. This not only contravenes the Right to Information Act but also violates the Patients' Rights Charter adopted by the National Human Rights Commission, which empowers every patient to access such details.”

Also read ‘Not even minimum transparency’: Doctor pushing NMC to make medical college reports public

Referring to another 2018 order of the CIC, Meeran has submitted that the CIC had directed the erstwhile Medical Council of India to publish all assessment and inspection reports of medical institutions. Hence, NMC being the legal successor of the MCI is obligated to disclose the medical college assessment reports, he said.

On behalf of the petitioner, Advocate Mr. S. Mohamed Ansar M.L appeared during the hearing.

He said: “The establishment of the National Medical Commission (NMC) followed numerous parliamentary standing committee reports, aiming to enhance transparency in regulatory functions. However, NMC members have failed to fulfill the requirement of declaring their assets on the official website for the past three years, despite it being mandated by the NMC Act. We highlighted this non-compliance in the petition. Additionally, we brought attention to specific instances of malpractices that occurred during the annual assessment of medical colleges, in the past. The counsel for NMC was not present today. Hence, the court ordered another copy of documents to the NMC and the case will be listed for hearing on January 19.”

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