The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) disbanded the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and ordered an interim committee to take charge of its affairs on Thursday. The body was adjudged to be illegal since the ordinance forming it – the PMDC (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 –  had lapsed, while its admission regulations were struck down.

The judgment of the court was to be expected, an ultra vires body cannot be allowed to pass rules and regulations, especially on such a critical sector; medical education management. The SC should also be commended for attending to this neglected matter and giving relief to the medical students which had raised the issue in the beginning and pushed for litigation.

The decision certainly creates a bit of uncertainty for both private and public medical college, as the seven-member interim committee, headed by retired Justice Shakirullah, will have the authority to review and inspect medical colleges. Furthermore,  Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf will also be part of the body and will help draft legislation as per the court's order; giving the appointed, interim setup significant authority to make changes.

Such authority exercised by a judiciary appointed body is sure to raise questions regarding separation of powers, especially in the current environment. Several members of the Pakistan Muslim Leauge- Nawaz (PML-N) have taken a critical stance towards the judiciary, which is bound to draw extra scrutiny. Furthermore, the raft of sou moto motions by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) – especially in unquestionably executive domains such as traffic management – have raised concerns of undue judicial activism and overreach.

However, in this particular case the government has no one to blame but itself.  From the initial failure to find a consensus with private medical colleges over their representation in the existing regulatory body in 2012, to the use of an executive ordinance to set up a appointed body – only to see it lapse in 2016 – the responsibility for this mess lies on the government’s shoulders.

The CJP is right in commenting that the “government awoke only when the PMDC ordinance lapsed”, there was plenty of time to legislate on a new council, or at least find time to perpetuate the ordinance.

The government still has the opportunity to clean up its mess. The composition and the functions of the body is ultimately and legislative and executive decision. The Parliament will now be presented with an opportunity to form new regulatory law – it must not be found sleeping again.