Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Delhi HC directs Centre to frame policy on online sale of drugs within 8 weeks

The Delhi High Court on Thursday gave the Central government eight weeks to frame a policy to regulate online sale of drugs or medicines.

In August, the court had directed both the Centre and the AAP government to take action against individuals involved in online sale of drugs without a valid licence.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma (now elevated to SC) and Justice Sanjeev Narula had granted the Centre a period of six weeks to take appropriate measures and inform the court about its final stance on illegal sale of drugs online.

On Thursday, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna said that if the policy is not framed within the given time, the concerned Joint Secretary dealing with the subject shall remain present in court on the next date of hearing.

The court then put up the matter for hearing next on March 4.

It said: “If the policy on online sale of drugs is not framed within eight weeks, the Joint Secretary dealing with the subject shall remain present in court on the next date.”

Last time, the Centre’s counsel had informed the court that discussions are still ongoing regarding the draft notification related to online sale of drugs.

The court had granted time to the Centre to take necessary actions and subsequently provide information about its final position on the matter.

“In the interim, the Union of India and the state government are directed to take necessary action, in accordance with law, in respect of persons acting in violation of the interim order dated December 12, 2018, i.e., engaging in online sale of drugs without a valid licence,” the court had said.

Earlier, the Central government had informed the high court that a proposal for framing rules to regulate e-pharmacies was under consideration and some more time was needed.

The Centre’s response came after the bench had asked it to file a status report on a petition seeking a ban on illegal sale of drugs online.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s draft rules were challenged in the plea to further amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules.

The petitioner’s lawyer had contended that the rules are being framed for the last 5-6 years but nothing concrete has been done yet.

The Ministry’s August 2018 notification was challenged by South Chemists and Distributors Association in a petition saying that ignoring the health hazards caused due to online sale of medicines without proper regulations, the draft rules are being pushed through in serious violation of the law.

The petition sought contempt action against the e-pharmacies for continuing to sell drugs online despite a high court order staying such activity, and contempt action against the Central government for allegedly not taking any step against the defaulting e-pharmacies.

On December 12, 2018, the Delhi High Court had stayed the online sale of drugs without licence by pharmacies while hearing petitioner Zaheer Ahmed’s PIL.

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