Union Minister Harsh Vardhan
Union Minister Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi: The National Medical Commission Bill, 2019, against which there have been protests in the country, has received Presidential assent making it into a law.

"NMC 2019 has received approval from the President. The bill has become NMC Act after his assent. Now it will be notified in the gazette," Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan told ANI.

Calling it the "biggest reform" in the medical education system, the Union Minister said that the National Medical Commission (NMC), which will replace the Medical Council of India (MCI), will be set up within six months.

He stated that the NMC Act is progressive legislation which will reduce the burden on students, ensure probity in medical education, bring down the cost of medical education, simplify procedures, help to enhance the number of medical seats in India, ensure quality education, and provide wider access to people to quality healthcare.

"It is a game-changing reform of transformational nature. I am sure that under the NMC, medical education in the country will attain its zenith in the years to come," Vardhan said.

"As the Medical Council of India (MCI) had failed in almost all spheres and had become a highly corrupt and ineffective body, it was recommended that independent regulators selected through a transparent process should replace the elected regulators.

"The NMC seeks to achieve this by having eminent medical personalities who will be appointed for only one term of four years. They will not be eligible for any further extension."

The Health Minister said to ensure probity and integrity of the highest order, the medical personalities will have to declare their assets at the time of being appointed and again while demitting office.

Dispelling fears and apprehensions about the measure giving a fillip to quackery in the country, he said, "A false impression is being created that the provision for Community Health Providers (CHPs) has been made to legalise quackery. Nothing else can be farther from the truth. On the contrary, the punishment for quackery has been enhanced to up to one-year imprisonment and up to Rs 5 lakh fine."

Most of the so-called quacks in the country do not possess any qualifications and would not be able to meet the conditions that will be set by NMC for becoming a CHP, he said.

Allaying some of the concerns voiced regarding the NMC Act, the Health Minister said, "There are some apprehensions about NMC being dominated by central government nominees. This is not true. There will be 10 vice-chancellors of state health universities and nine elected members of state medical councils in the NMC.

Thus, 19 out of 33 members, which is more than half of the total strength, would be from the states and only a minority of members will be appointed by the central government, thereby ensuring that the NMC is representative, inclusive and respecting the federal structure of Indian polity".

Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha had passed the NMC Bill which seeks to create National Medical Commission in place of Medical Council of India, with Harsh Vardhan terming it as an "anti-vested interests Bill". Since the Bill was passed in the Parliament, the Indian Medical Association has been raising apprehensions regarding its certain provisions.

The Bill provides for the repeal of the Indian Medical Council Act 1956. It provides that the common final year MBBS exam be known as NEXT which would serve as a licentiate exam for entrance to post-graduate medical courses and as a screening test for foreign medical graduates.

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