Kunal Saha v. Medical Council of India
F. No. CIC/YA/A/2016/001453; decided by the Central Information Commission on 9-1-2017.
Information sought and Background of the case: The appellant vide RTI application dated 3-10-2015 sought information under 10 points regarding copies of all documents including present status of the complaint/appeal dated 8-10-2010 filed against ex-MCI President, Dr. Ketan Desai, by the appellant Dr. Kunal Saha. CPIO vide letter dated 17-11-2015 furnished point-wise information as available on record. The appellant preferred first appeal. FAA vide order dated 17-3-2016 disposed of appeal by upholding the reply of CPIO. Feeling aggrieved, the appellant approached the Commission.
Hearing: The Commission enquired from the Respondents:
Whether there has been a change in the official policy with respect to publication of Ethics Committee proceedings. The Respondent replied that the New Committee constituted since December 2013 decided to deal each case individually and independently in order to protect the rights of the doctors and medical practitioners. It was submitted by the Respondent that since the proceedings before the Ethics Committee are quasi-judicial in nature, the minutes pertaining to the same are not revealed till the same are not finalised or any process regarding the same are underway. To a query from the Bench as to whether it is a policy decision of the MCI or procedural practice to provide information on this subject in response to an RTI application, but not voluntarily uploaded on website, the Respondent explained that since the Minutes of such meetings run into hundreds of pages, it seems more procedural that such information are not uploaded as a practice. The appellant rebutted that Findings of the Ethics Committee consist of two to three pages though the proceedings may not conclude in a single hearing, but it will not be appropriate to say that the Minutes as such are voluminous. The Respondent narrated that matters referred to the Ethics Committee are subsequently placed before the In-house Executive Committee which further forwards it to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. From there the matter is sent to the Oversight Committee (constituted under the directions of the Supreme Court) for approval and thereafter it comes back to the MCI and only at this point such information can be disclosed to public at large. Dealing next with the query number 7, the Respondent replied that the MCI earns a substantial portion of its revenue from these inspections of new medical colleges or new courses to be commenced at medical colleges. Hence, for conducting such inspection of colleges, three assessors who are generally Professor/Associate Professor from Govt. Medical Colleges are chosen to inspect the premises and infrastructure, etc. of the medical colleges on behalf of the MCI for the commencement of new colleges and such inspection is generally carried out over two days. For initiating a new course in a Medical College, one expert from the concerned specialty course is sent for the inspection. The Respondent further submitted that different persons are chosen for being sent for such inspections and that since the year 2012 all such assessment reports have been regularly uploaded by both the MCI and the concerned Medical college and such reports are regularly submitted for audit by the CAG. In response to the query number 9, the Respondent has stated that currently approximately 4000 cases of litigation pertaining to MCI are pending in the various courts of law, of which it is likely that 40% are sub-judice before the Apex Court. Hence, the Respondent sought to argue that the providing of the information was likely to disproportionately divert the resources. The Commission has gone through the detailed arguments of both parties at length and finds that much of the information denied by the Respondent should have been provided to the Appellant. No justification apart from the PIO’s reply has been offered to reason such denial by the Respondents. Having dealt with the deliberations of both parties in a point-wise format above, the Commission finds that information against only points 6 and 8 have been provided, as per the Appellant’s statement.
For the rest the Commission directs as hereunder: Points 1 and 2: The Respondent has not been able to substantiate with any reason what prevents them from furnishing the information as sought under these two queries. Even if the matter is pending before the Ethics Committee, no reason nor justification has been given by the Respondent as to why information cannot be shared about the current status of the complaint/appeal filed by the appellant and likewise about the status of suspension of Dr. Ketan Desai. In the event that the status of his medical registration has changed, the meeting when such decision to alter/change the suspension was taken is also not a piece of information which is exempt from disclosure under any of the provisions of the RTI Act. As has been discussed above, mere pendency of final decision/examination/consideration of an issue is not good enough reason to deny information unless supported by valid reason and justification to substantiate that disclosure of information would be detrimental to the interest of the Respondent. Accordingly, the Commission directs the Respondent to furnish information about the current status of the complaint/appeal dated 8-10-2010 filed by the Appellant against ex-MCI President, Dr. Ketan Desai including information about the current status of suspension of the medical registration of the Dr. Desai.
Points 3 and 4: As discussed in the preceding paragraph, and in the body of this order, no reason for denial of information has been made out by the Respondent with respect to points 3 and 4. Merely stating that the minutes of the Ethics Committee are quasi-judicial in nature does not make the same exempt under the RTI Act, since there is no such provision under the Act. Despite clear directives of the Commission by an earlier order dated 13-2-2012, titled as S P Manchanda v. MCI, [CIC/SG/A/2011/003627] there has been blatant violation of the Commission’s order in as much as the informations with respect to the Ethics Committee have neither been disclosed on the website since October 2013 nor any justification furnished for such non-disclosure. The said order of the Commission has not been challenged and accordingly the same holds good and the direction of the Commission should have been complied by now and the disclosures done on the website in terms of the order. Instead even the response/s against the queries number 3 and 4 in this case are vague and baseless. Hence, the Commission directs that the minutes of the Ethics Committee in compliance should be made available on the website of the Respondent and relevant files containing information about up-to-date minutes of the Ethics Sub-Committee and Executive Committee meetings held since 18-10-2013 and 17-8-2015 as sought by the appellant should be made available to the Appellant/his authorised representative (since the Appellant may or may not be available in India at all times), for inspection of the same. Copy of the relevant pages as identified upon identification shall be provided by the Respondent.
Point 5: Information sought under this query is agenda of all meetings of MCI Ethics Committee since 10-12-2013 and the reason why the same had been denied seems neither rational nor convincing. Therefore, the Respondent is directed to allow inspection of the relevant files so that the appellant can locate and obtain copies of the specific pages of information.
Point 7: With respect to this query, the Commission directs the Respondent to provide the basis of appointment of the assessors who conduct the inspection on behalf of the MCI. The qualification of the Professors or Associates who are assigned the task should also be made available to the Appellant. In fact, the Commission is of the opinion that ample disclosure about qualification of doctors/assessors, etc. enhances the faith of patients and should thus be promoted by all means.
Point 9: During the deliberations before the Commission, the Respondent agreed to furnish information about the payments made to individual lawyers, annually since 2010.
All of the above information should be provided to the appellant within three weeks of receipt of this order, with a copy mandatorily marked to the Commission. The inspection/s should be provided within two weeks of receipt of this order. The appeal is disposed of on the above terms.