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As per the Drug Control Order under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the Government is to ensure that the prices will not be increased by more than 10% of the prices prevailing in the preceding 12 months.
The Bombay High Court yesterday came down heavily on the Central Goverment and the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) over the failure of the authorities to take into account the Drug Control Order, 2013 when it comes to the capping of the prices of N95 masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice SS Shinde was hearing the PIL filed by by journalist Sucheta Dalal and Anjali Damania alleging rampant black marketing and profiteering in the sale of N95 protective face masks.
The Court had earlier queried why there is no cap on the prices of N95 masks, especially since it has been notified as an essential commodity under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955
The Court yesterday noted that while the NPPA had conducted a meeting to discuss the capping of prices for N95 masks, it had not considered paragraph 20 of the Drug Control Order, which was issued under the Essential Commodities Act.
It was noted that this provision obliges the Government to ensure that the prices will not be increased by more than 10% of the prices prevailing in the preceding 12 months.
The Court observed, therefore, that the NPPA cannot allow an increase in the price of a drug beyond 10% of the price in the preceding 12 months, so long as this order exists. The matter cannot be left to the manufacturers, it was noted. The NPPA has not taken this into consideration in the meeting held on May 15 2020, the Court said.
The Court has now directed the NPPA to relook and pass appropriate orders in accordance with law, as per clause 20 of the Drug Price control order.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh appeared for the Central Government, whereas Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni appeared for the State Government.
The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Mihir Desai assisted by Advocate Mihir Joshi.