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HC asks Centre, state govt to take action against unlicensed online drug sales

HC asks Centre, state govt to take action against unlicensed online drug sales

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre and the city government to take action against those engaging in the online sale of drugs without a valid licence.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula also granted six weeks to the Centre to take appropriate steps and inform the court about its final stand on the "illegal" sale of drugs online.

The bench listed the matter for further hearing on November 16 after the Centre's counsel informed the court that consultations are still going on about a draft notification on the online sale of drugs.

“Union of India is granted further six weeks' time to take appropriate steps and thereafter, inform the court of UoI's final stand in this 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, that is, engaging in the online sale of drugs without a valid licence,” the bench said in its order passed on August 28.

The high court had earlier asked the Centre to file a status report on petitions seeking a ban on the "illegal" sale of drugs online.

The court was hearing petitions seeking a ban on such sale and challenging the draft rules published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to further amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules.

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The Petitioner body, South Chemists and Distributors Association, represented by advocate Amit Gupta, has said while challenging the August 2018 notification that the draft rules are being pushed through in "serious violation" of the law, ignoring the health hazards caused due to sale of medicines online without proper regulations.

Petitioner Zaheer Ahmed, represented by advocate Nakul Mohta, has sought contempt action against the e-pharmacies for continuing to sell drugs online despite a high court order staying such activity.

The petition also seeks contempt action against the central government for allegedly not taking action against the defaulting e-pharmacies.

The high court had on December 12, 2018, stayed the sale of drugs without a licence by online pharmacies while hearing Ahmed's PIL.

Some of the e-pharmacies had earlier told the high court that they do not require a licence for the online sale of drugs and prescription medicines as they do not sell them and instead, they are only delivering the medications akin to food delivery app Swiggy.

Just like Swiggy does not require a restaurant's licence to deliver food, they do not need a licence to deliver medicines to customers who purchase drugs online, the e-pharmacies had told the court.

The submission had come during the hearing of the plea seeking contempt action against e-pharmacies for continuing to sell drugs online despite a high court order staying such activity.

The court had earlier sought responses of the Centre, Delhi government, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and the Pharmacy Council of India to the petition.

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The petitioner had said "illegal" sale of medicines online will lead to a "drug epidemic", drug abuse and misutilisation of habit-forming and addictive drugs.

The PIL said since there was no mechanism to control the sale of medicines online, it puts the health and lives of people at high risk and affects their right to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

"Online pharmacies are operating without a drug licence and cannot be regulated in the present regime. Unregulated and unlicensed sale of medicines will increase risk of spurious, misbranded and sub-standard drugs being sold," the plea said.

It claimed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded the online sale of medicines is in contravention of the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and other allied laws.

Still, lakhs of drugs are being sold on the internet every day, it said, adding some of the drugs/medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic substances, and some can cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to humanity at large.

"It is a matter of public knowledge that e-commerce websites have been caught on numerous occasions selling fake products. Unlike consumer items, drugs are extremely potent substances and consuming the wrong dose or fake medicine can have fatal consequences on the patient," it had said.

A large number of children use the Internet and they could become victims of wrong medications, it added.

With direct inputs from PTI

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TAGS:Delhi High CourtCentreOnline drug saleUnlicensedIllegal sale
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