New Delhi: In a major setback to online pharmacies, the Delhi High court has refused to vacate the stay on online sale of drugs and prescription medicines.
The decision is indeed in stark contrast to a recent order issued by the Madras High Court that vacated stay on the online sale of drugs.
The move came in light of the submissions of the Central government counsel that rules are yet to be framed to regulate such entities. The court said that the hearing will continue on February 6, 2019.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao observed, “Keeping in view the averments made by the Union of India in its counter affidavit, based on reports of various committees and the fact that statutory rules are yet to be framed, we are not inclined to vacate the interim order. It will continue till the next date.”
The Centre’s counsel said the government is in the process of framing rules in this regard. During the hearing, one of the online pharmacies seeking to be impleaded in the matter informed the court that the division bench of Madras High Court has vacated the stay on online sale of medicines.
The pharmacies also urged the court to remove the prohibition on the online sale of drugs, saying they held licences and no medicines were sold illegally.
The applications for impleadment were filed in a PIL by Zaheer Ahmed, seeking a ban on “illegal” sale of drugs and medicines online.
In his petition, Ahmed, represented through senior advocate Arvind Nigam and advocate Nakul Mohta, has said that the online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and mis-utilisation of habit forming and addictive drugs.
It has claimed that the Ministry of Health, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines was in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the other allied laws.
Still lakhs of drugs are being sold on the Internet every day, it has said, adding that some of the drugs or medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic substance and some can cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to the humanity at large.
“It is a matter of public knowledge that e-commerce websites have been caught on numerous occasions of selling fake products. Unlike consumer items, drugs are extremely potent substances and consuming wrong dose or fake medicine can have fatal consequences on the patient,” it said.
The petition said that as of now there is no mechanism to control the sale of medicines on the Internet and this puts 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 the risk of spurious, misbranded and sub-standard drugs being sold,” the plea has said.
It has sought direction to the authorities to take action against the entities distributing, selling or exhibiting drugs on the Internet.
It has also sought direction for the constitution of an expert committee to find out the total number of websites which are distributing and selling the drugs in the country and to impose a ban on the online sale and purchase of medicines.