Advocates Act 1961 which established Bar Councils clearly states the functions of State Bar Councils to lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates, to admit persons as advocates on its roll, to prepare and maintain such roll, to entertain and determine cases of misconduct against advocates on its roll, to recognise universities whose degree in law shall be recognized and to safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of advocates on its roll and promote the growth of Bar Associations for the purposes of effective implementation of the welfare schemes. A State Bar Council may constitute one or more funds in the prescribed manner for the purpose of giving financial assistance to organise welfare schemes for the indigent, disabled or other advocates.
The Press Council Act 1978 in Chapter III clearly states the objects and functions of the Press Council as primarily to preserve freedom of the Press and to help newspapers and agencies to attain the same and to maintain and improve standards of newspapers and news agencies in India. Its objective is also to build a code of conduct for newspapers, news agencies and journalists in accordance with high professional standards. The Press Council is given the power to warn, admonish or censure a newspaper and may require the newspaper to publish such material as it may deem fit if it after inquiry feels the news paper or agency has offended the standards of journalistic ethics. This decision of the council cannot be challenged in a court of law. In fact, the Press Council cannot entertain any case already under litigation in any other court of the land.
The Indian Medical Council Act 1956, however, does not define the objects and functions of Medical Council of India or State Medical Councils. Its role to register a qualified doctor, or to recognize courses offered by medical colleges is defined. In case of complaint and inquiry the powers to suspend or cancel the registration of a doctor are implicit. There is, however, no role, as per the Act, of the MCI or State Medical Councils in looking after the welfare of those who are registered under it. This starkly contrasts with the functions and objects of the Press Council and the Bar Council. Suspension or cancellation of registration of a doctor means he is immediately unemployable which is very different from a slap on the wrist offered by the Press Council of India in the form of “warning, admonish, or censure”.
There is a glaring lacuna in the Indian Medical Council Act where there are no functions or duties of the Medical Council towards the welfare of those who are registered under it. A complaint in Medical Council is entertained in addition to complaint being filed in consumer courts, and in criminal courts of law again contrasting with the provisions under the Press Council Act. Rights and duties go hand in hand and this is true for an individual as well as for a statutory body as per law of natural justice. It is time to review the Indian Medical Council Act and many of the regulations made under it.
Dr Neeraj Nagpal
Convenor, Medicos Legal Action Group
Ex-President, IMA Chandigarh