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Delhi HC hears petition to ban online sale of drugs after Centre informs its inability to frame rules

Our Bureau, New Delhi
Wednesday, July 10, 2024, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Delhi High Court has proceeded to hear petitions to ban online sale of medicines on merit, after the Central government informed the Division Bench that it has not been able to frame rules for e-pharmacies, according to one of the petitioners.

The South Chemists & Distributors Association (SCDA), a trader's body based in Delhi, which approached the High Court seeking a ban on the online pharmacies, said that when the matter came up for hearing on May 8, the Centre stated that it has not been able to frame the rules.

It may be noted that the Court, in its previous hearing on March 4, 2024 has given the last and final opportunity for the Central government to frame a policy of online sale of drugs, failing which the Court stated that it would hear the matter on merit. Even though the Court has given several opportunities in the past too, to frame the policy, the Central government failed to come up with a policy, despite bringing out a draft notification on August 28, 2018.

Following the submission of the Central government, the Court proceeded with hearing the matter on merit, and heard the arguments of the counsels appearing for SCDA and the online pharmacy firms, said SCDA.

SCDA's counsels Sudhir Nandarjog and Amit Gupta pointed out various provisions under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945 that govern the sale of medicines in India.

It was submitted that in the absence of a valid license under the Act and the Rules, there is a total prohibition and bar to sale of medicines. There are no rules permitting online sale of drugs and the same has also been submitted by the Union of India on a sworn affidavit in the High Court of Delhi in an affidavit filed in Writ Petition (C) No. 3139 of 2020, said SCDA in a press statement.

The Petitioner also referred to a Report of Sub-Committee
Constituted by the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) to examine the issue of Regulating the Sale of Drugs over Internet under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, in which it was specifically stated that “the sub-committee is of the view that until the systems and specific provisions is in place, e-
pharmacy may not be allowed.”

On behalf of various private entities, it was submitted that they are acting strictly as per the law and they have licenses. They pointed out the various models being used by online pharmacies to sell the drugs.

The next date of further hearing is scheduled on September 3, 2024, it said.

It may be noted that in the previous hearing, the Central government in its appeal requesting further time, submitted that the subject of online sale of drug is one of complex nature and any modification in the manner of sale of drugs will have far reaching consequences and will involve changes in many other Acts and Rules/Regulations apart from Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; Pharmacy Act, 1948; Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015; Indian Medical Act, 1956; Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002, and Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954.

"It is further submitted that the modifications will also involve changes and amendments in these Acts and Rules/Regulations and the manner in which these Acts and Rules/Regulations are operated and enforced by all their respective stakeholders," added the ministry of health and family welfare.


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