The chief justice will now have to set up the larger bench even as at least 39 such cases are already pending before the court. 

The functioning of the Medical Council of India is in a deeper mess, as the apex court ruled this week that a fresh constitution bench will now decide if Lodha committee appointed for oversight of MCI must continue.

The government has argued that it is no longer necessary for the court-appointed committee to run the MCI. The committee’s controversial one-year term ended last month.

On Wednesday, a three-judge bench of the apex court referred the case to a larger constitution bench. Justice Chelameswar wrote in the order that since a constitution bench appointed the committee, only another bench of equal or larger strength must look into the issue.

ThePrint had reported earlier that the committee had itself informed the health ministry that it has disbanded. In a letter dated 15 May, the committee said that it had “ceased functioning with effect from 16 May 2017” because its tenure had come to an end.

A Haryana-based educational trust quickly moved the apex court urging that the Lodha committee must continue to function since the government has no alternate mechanism in place.

It is now unclear if the committee will function till the constitution bench decides its fate. The chief justice will now have to set up the larger bench even as at least 39 such cases are already pending before the court.

In 2016, a constitution bench had appointed the former chief justice R.M. Lodha committee to streamline activities of the MCI.

This is not the government’s first attempt to regain control of the MCI. Last month, the MCI debarred 34 colleges which were granted approvals by the oversight committee for failing to meet required standards. The move not only shows the widening rift between the Lodha Committee and the government but also puts the fate of around 4000 students enrolled in these colleges in jeopardy.

In August last year, the Lodha panel had removed a ban imposed by MCI on 26 medical colleges. Separately, health activist Anand Rai moved the apex court alleging that the Committee had overshot its mandate and ignored recommendations of MCI and the Health Ministry to not grant approvals to certain medical colleges.

Apart from Justice Lodha, former comptroller and auditor general Vinod Rai and director at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences S.K. Sarin are members of the oversight committee.

The MCI did not answer calls from ThePrint seeking a response.

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