KATHMANDU, July 3: The country may witness a serious legal void in medical education-related legislation after the decision of the government to withdraw the replacement bill for the National Medical Education Ordinance following protests from the main opposition party, Nepali Congress.
According to Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel, the government decided to withdraw the medical education bill after its attempt to endorse it through a fast-track process in parliament Sunday failed. The NC had threatened to obstruct parliament. The NC has expressed strong reservations over changes made in the bill against the agreements that were reached with agitating surgeon Dr Govinda KC in line with the recommendations of the Mathema taskforce.
“Since the opposition did not allow it to be endorsed through parliament, we have decided to withdraw the bill and introduce it through a regular process. Since we cannot pass it by Wednesday through the regular process, this may create a state of legal vacuum. The NC should take responsibility for this,” said Pokharel.
The NC, however, said that the legal void was created by the government itself. NC leader and former health minister Gagan Thapa said the government did not endorse the ordinance even though it had six whole months to do so. “When it did introduced the bill in parliament, key elements of the ordinance had been changed to benefit some interest groups. This was unacceptable to the NC,” he said.
Thapa argued the legal void was created as the government chose to change key provisions mentioned in the Medical Education Ordinance introduced earlier by the NC-led government.
With this development, the existing Medical Education Commission gets dissolved from Wednesday, paving the way for the interest groups to influence the political leadership to their advantage. “The onus lies with the government to take the initiative to prevent such manipulations during this time of legal void,” Thapa further said.
Education Minister Pokharel said that the new law gives continuity to the provisions of the Medical Education Commission. However, the existing commission will be dissolved from Wednesday and the office bearers of the body will not be given continuity in office.
The new law, according to Pokharel, will not include provisions such as banning the opening of medical colleges in Kathmandu Valley for 10 years and prohibiting a university from granting affiliation to more than five medical colleges, as was provisioned in the ordinance.
“If the new medical education act fails to include the provisions incorporated in the ordinance, we will be forced to stand against it again,” former health minister Thapa further said.