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SC wants artificial intelligence to reform medical education, asks Nandan Nilekani to help

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Court accepts Kapil Sibal’s suggestion to use AI for verification by Medical Council of India, tells Nilekani to take tech majors’ help to develop mechanism.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is now planning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to reform medical education in India — a mandate that remained unfulfilled by the court-appointed R.M. Lodha committee.

The court Wednesday accepted a suggestion from senior advocate Kapil Sibal to use AI for verification of medical colleges by the Medical Council of India (MCI) to grant permissions. It sought the assistance of Nandan Nilekani, co-founder and non-executive chairman of tech giant Infosys and former head of the Aadhaar project (UIDAI), to develop a mechanism.

Also read: India can offer a radically new way of looking at data: Nandan Nilekani

“There are incessant disputes which reach this court about what actually transpired at inspections of various private medical colleges by the MCI. The parties contest virtually every fact that is recorded in an inspection,” the court said, while appointing Nilekani.

The court added that Nilekani would be at “liberty to take technical assistance from various IT companies viz. Wipro, Infosys, Accenture, etc.” to develop the mechanism.

Gaurav Sharma, lawyer for the MCI, welcomed the court’s move.

“When the court recommends the use of technology to improve the situation, what’s there to disagree?” he said.

ThePrint has learnt that Justice S.A. Bobde, who is hearing the case along with Justice L. Nageswara Rao, had requested many senior advocates appearing in medical college cases — including Sibal and Rajeev Dhawan — to suggest a mechanism and even adjourned the case several times to give them time.

On 19 September, Sibal orally suggested “a computer network-based technological solution which might include artificial intelligence”. Sibal, who was initially appearing on behalf of Al Azhar Medical College and Super Speciality Hospital, a Kerala-based private medical college, was immediately appointed amicus curiae (Latin for friend of the court).

The medical education reform

In May 2016, the apex court said the MCI needed a complete revamp and appointed a three-member committee — headed by former chief justice of India R.M. Lodha — to bring in transparency and accountability and oversee the regulator’s statutory functioning.

The committee’s term expired a year later, and a bitter turf war between the judiciary and the government ensured that no reform was possible.

In its final report, the committee had also suggested a standard operating procedure for verification of medical colleges. Apart from the previous MCI guidelines, the Lodha committee also recommended mandatory sharing of all verification reports with the colleges to ensure transparency.

Even as legal experts criticised the court’s intervention as “judicial overreach”, the court in 2017 appointed another committee of eminent doctors from Delhi to continue with the reform.

Also readIndians don’t need to worry about artificial intelligence just yet: Rajiv Pratap Rudy

The intervention, however, has also ensured that hundreds of cases by medical colleges land up before the court routinely during the admission season, adding to the court’s huge pile of pending cases.

Disclosure: Nandan Nilekani, the former chairman of UIDAI and co-founder of Infosys, is among the distinguished founder-investors of ThePrint. Please click here for details on investors.

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