WMA president Ketan Desai attends court hearing in corruption case

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Ketan Desai, an Indian doctor recently installed as president of the World Medical Association (WMA), appeared in a New Delhi courthouse on Friday to attend a hearing in a case where he faces charges of corruption.

Ketan Desai, the former president of the Medical Council of India, walks after his hearing at a courthouse in Lucknow, India, June 27, 2015. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar/Files

The proceedings were adjourned until February.

Desai was last month installed as the president of the global medical-ethics body for 2016/17 despite controversy surrounding his appointment while legal cases are pending.

In the New Delhi case filed in 2010, Desai faces charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy for allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to obtain a bribe of 20 million rupees ($450,000 at the time) from a medical college.

Desai denies any wrongdoing, but investigators allege he helped the school get permission from the Medical Council of India to add more students. When contacted last year, the college, which is not a defendant in the case, declined to comment.

Wearing a checked shirt, Desai on Friday walked through the corridor of the Delhi district courthouse and entered the courtroom when his name was called out by an official.

The case was not heard immediately as the judge was not available and was transferred to another courtroom. Desai did not appear there.

Desai declined to answer questions from a Reuters reporter in the court complex on Friday. He also did not respond immediately to subsequent questions sent to him by email.

Asked about Desai’s court appearance and the charges against him, WMA spokesman Nigel Duncan said: “To the best of our knowledge all criminal charges have been dismissed against Dr. Desai”. Duncan added that the court procedure was “complicated” and referred Reuters to the Indian Medical Association.

K.K. Aggarwal of the Indian Medical Association was not immediately available for a comment.

A source at India’s Central Bureau of Investigation told Reuters on Friday that charges against Desai in the case had not been dropped. The Delhi case remains on hold pending an appeal in the Supreme Court. Judge Bharat Parashar said Friday that the next hearing in the case will be held on Feb. 6.

After he was first selected in 2009 as a future president of the WMA, Desai faced corruption and conspiracy allegations.

Desai was arrested in the Delhi case and jailed in 2010 pending a possible trial. He was later released on bail. That year his inauguration as the WMA president was suspended. In 2013, the WMA decided to lift the suspension after receiving assurances from the Indian Medical Association, which Desai once headed.

A Reuters investigation published in July last year showed that the Indian Medical Association had incorrectly told the WMA that charges against Desai had been withdrawn.

Representatives of major doctors' organizations accepted the information as fact. The Indian Medical Association said last year that it never misled the WMA. (

The WMA had said it took questions raised in the Reuters article “very seriously” and would look into them. Later, in October 2015, the WMA upheld its decision to appoint Desai as president, without giving reasons. Last month, when Desai was installed as president, the WMA told Reuters it had nothing more to say.

An overburdened and under-resourced Indian judiciary system means court cases can drag on for years.

Proceedings in a separate case, alleging Desai was involved in a conspiracy to have the Medical Council of India allow a private medical school to add more students, were put on hold last year by a district court in northern Uttar Pradesh state until investigators obtain government permission to prosecute.

Based in France, the WMA sets ethical standards for physicians worldwide and represents millions of doctors. Known for its pioneering work in ethics, its members include the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association.

Editing by Peter Hirschberg