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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Madras HC issues guidelines to National Medical Council

Justice R Mahadevan issued the guidelines while quashing an order dated May 4 this year of the Tamil Nadu Medical Council removing the name of Dr P Basumani, Gastroenterologist, from its medical register for six months.

By: PTI | Chennai |
Updated: October 27, 2021 9:04:31 am
The Madras High Court in Chennai. (File)

The Madras High Court on Tuesday issued a set of 12 guidelines to be included in the new regulations that are to be framed under the National Medical Council (NMC) Act, 2019 for effective handling of complaints against medical practitioners.

Justice R Mahadevan issued the guidelines while quashing an order dated May 4 this year of the Tamil Nadu Medical Council removing the name of Dr P Basumani, Gastroenterologist, from its medical register for six months.

The order alleged the doctor had fallen short of the integrity and conduct expected out of a medical practitioner, besides violating the trust the public placed in the medical profession.

The judge stated that the code/ regulations should enunciate in general the duties bestowed by law on a registered medical practitioner. These duties and responsibilities are standards to be met by all medical practitioners in general. After enumerating the general duties and responsibilities expected from the doctor, certain specific duties and responsibilities, the violation of which would entail disciplinary action, would be construed as ‘professional misconduct’ to be enumerated in a list of instances that are illustrative.

Further guidance is to be issued in the Regulations itself as to which other further instances of misconduct may be treated by the disciplinary board or the superior Courts as qualifying under the term ‘professional misconduct’ that would entail disciplinary action against medical practitioners.

Thereafter, a complete stage-wise guidelines/ mechanism is to be envisaged under the Code/ Regulations from the time of filing of the complaint by an aggrieved person to the registration of such a complaint with the concerned medical council and the procedure to be followed thereafter. Once a complaint is received from an aggrieved person, the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board, as the case may be, may issue a show cause notice to the delinquent medical practitioner, annexing a copy of the complaint received and calling upon an explanation in detail from the medical practitioner, within a time frame to be fixed by the Council.

The medical practitioner may submit his explanation within the time frame granted and the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board may, after considering the explanation given by the medical practitioner, constitute an enquiry committee consisting of experts in the field with specific reference to the field of medicine with which the medical practitioner is associated.

After constitution of committee, notice is to be issued to the medical practitioner as well as the complainant and both parties shall be heard in person and relevant oral as well as documentary evidence shall be recorded by giving enough opportunity to both parties in the presence of each other.

The principles of natural justice, as required in quasi-judicial proceedings, will have to necessarily be followed as the proceedings may end in punishments which would entail civil consequences to either party.

After completing enquiry, the Enquiry Committee has to submit its detailed report encompassing all the evidence recorded before it by both parties and come to an informed decision on its recommendation to the disciplinary board of the State Medical Council / Ethics and Medical Registration Board.

The Enquiry committee will have to indicate its finding on the veracity or otherwise of the complaint as well as its finding on whether the medical practitioner is guilty of ‘professional misconduct’ under the Regulations/Code.

In order to make the disciplinary proceedings free from any loopholes and to avoid multiplicity of proceedings, the report of the enquiry committee is to be made final and binding on the disciplinary board of the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board.

On receipt of the report of the enquiry committee, the Disciplinary Board of the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board, as the case may be, if the medical practitioner is found guilty, may decide on a proposed punishment and issue a show cause notice to the medical practitioner on the only ground of the proposed punishment, call for his remarks thereon and thereafter pass orders imposing punishment on the medical practitioner.

The disciplinary board of the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board will have a permanent tenure, fixed three-member body (constituted by election by the Commission from amongst its members) that will function as the disciplinary authority for the purpose of professional misconduct by registered medical practitioners under the Code/Regulation.

The enquiry committee will have to be appointed by the unanimous consent of the members of the Disciplinary Board of the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board as the case may be. The appointment of the members of the enquiry committee, however, will differ from case to case depending on the field of medicine that the delinquent officer is associated with.

Any complaint made to the State Medical Council/Ethics and Medical Registration Board shall be disposed of within a period of six months.

For the purpose of giving enough and extensive powers to the enquiry committee, inspiration may be drawn from Section 42 of the Advocates Act, 1961 where the disciplinary committee of the Bar Council is given extensive powers with respect to conducting enquiry, recording of evidence et cetera.

The code of ethics which presently mentions under Regulation 1.3 that medical documents and records to be preserved for a period of three years can be extended for a period of 10 years as the entire records can be digitalised and the same may be required for dealing with complaints. A period of limitation for filing a complaint against a medical practitioner can be loosely fixed by the Council while giving liberty to the disciplinary board to relax the same, if the case so deserves, the court said.

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