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Don’t call practitioners of Indian medicine ‘quacks’, have rights under law, says Commission

National Commission for Indian System of Medicine says ‘defaming’ registered ISM doctors violates laws safeguarding right to practice. Letter to ‘protect them in court of law’.

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New Delhi: The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM) has said that calling registered practitioners of the Indian System of Medicine (ISM) “quacks” is in violation of laws that safeguard their right to practice. 

In a letter dated 17 February, the NCISM, which is under the ministry of Ayush, said that practitioners registered under the second schedule of the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970 and the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Act, 2020 “are legally registered medical practitioners as per law. So there is no question to call them quacks or bogus doctors”. 

The letter goes on to say that if people address registered practitioners as “quacks” and “bogus” in public documents or platforms (such as press releases, FIRs, and social media), “it will be in violation of provisions described in the above laws and would violations of constitutional rights of the registered practitioners of Indian System of Medicine (sic).”

The letter was signed by Rakesh Sharma, president, Board of the Ethics and Registration for Indian System of Medicine.

“The definition of a quack is someone who is not a registered medical practitioner. But there is a lobby that calls registered ISM practitioners quacks and bogus. It is not punishable, but this is just to clarify that those who are registered are abiding by the law. If a case is filed against them, this letter will protect them in a court of law,” Sharma told ThePrint. 

ThePrint tried reaching Dr Jayesh Lele, general secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), over the phone for his comments, but couldn’t contact him till this story was published.

Also read: Modi govt starts overseas promotion of Ayurveda with ‘Ashwagandha’ trial for Covid recovery in UK

Complaints of ISM practitioners

The NCISM letter follows the complaints of ISM practitioners who said they are “pained” that their colleagues are called “quacks”. 

Ashutosh Gupta, convenor of the Vaidyakiya Vikas Manch in Maharashtra, wrote to the NCISM, saying “genuine” ISM practitioners were “harassed” and raided on the pretext of being “bogus doctors”. 

“These insults are a real anguishing story that can’t be wished away and the association requests its strict attention toward these acts that are defamatory,” the letter says, adding that there needs to be a “directive on the issue of legitimate doctors being addressed as bogus”.

‘System devoid of science’ 

Doctors and other experts in the health sector have said the letter was unwarranted. 

The Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) national president, Dr Sahajanand Prasad Singh, told ThePrint, “Registered practitioners, whether in allopathy or in the Indian System of Medicine, cannot be called quacks. So we are in agreement of that.”

He added, “The IMA opposes mixology, in which Ayurveda doctors can conduct surgeries. AYUSH doctors should not go beyond their knowledge and start mixing practices. The government has been receptive to our concerns and will be setting up a committee to investigate mixology. We are ready to co-operate with the committee and its findings.”

Shozeb Haider, a professor at University College London’s School of Pharmacy, said India was “the land of snake charmers”.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: How a bacteria is helping revive an endangered ayurvedic herb in CSIR labs


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