The Delhi High Court has directed the central government to make its stand clear on the rules regarding epharmacies and the sale of medicines online.
In a hearing on Wednesday (February 6), the Delhi High Court was upset with the Centre “on playing delaying tactics” with draft epharmacy rules, an Inc42 source close to the development said. The delay is being attributed to the upcoming general election in the country, the source said.
Further, the Delhi High Court has asked the Central government to submit a status report on the epharmacy rules, at the earliest. It has also asked epharmacy companies to submit their counter-affidavit within the next four weeks.
The matter has been scheduled for hearing on May 9 in the Delhi High Court.
On Dec.12, the Delhi High Court division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao ordered a complete ban on online pharmacies across the country with immediate effect, asking the central government to implement the order. The court order was in response to a petition asking for a stop on the sale of drugs and prescription medicines online as it was in contravention of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, Drugs and Cosmetics Rule, 1945, and the Pharmacy Act, 1948. These laws, however, predate the introduction of ecommerce in India.
Related Article: India’s Epharmacy Rules: What’s The Holdup, Patna High Court Asks
Meanwhile, epharma companies, are respondents to a similar case going in Madras High Court.
Inc42 had reported earlier in December 2018, that Justice M.Sathyanarayanan and Justice P.Rajamanickam of the Madras High Court had passed an order directing the central government to notify the epharmacy rules in the Gazette at the earliest, not later than January 31, 2019, in the interest of public and the online drug trade.
On December 20, 2018 the Madras High Court had suspended its earlier ban on the sale of online medicines after a group of epharmacy companies had filed an appeal requesting for a stay on the court’s order asking online pharmacies to shut down operations by December 20, 2018.
In such cases when two High Court benches of equal size (number of judges) issue conflicting orders, the matter is then left for a larger bench of judges or referred to the Supreme Court.
The trouble for epharmacies began in October 2018 when the Madras High Court announced a ban on the online sale of medicines. The same was followed by Delhi High Court and by the last hearing in January 2019, the ban on epharmacies was stayed till a decision is announced in the matter.
Earlier, the companies informed the court, through the appeal, that they are not violating any rules or regulations under the act. There are two types of online pharmacies, one acting as aggregators to connect registered pharmacists and the consumer and the other which have their own registered pharmacists, medicine stocks and sales licenses under existing regulations.
Notified in September 2018, the draft epharmacy rules note that those selling drugs and cosmetics online, have to obtain licences in the manner prescribed, within a period of two months from the date of notification.
The ongoing case had also concerned startups around the interim budget 2019 when the epharmacy startups had told Inc42 that recognition of epharmacy under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act is something that the government must look into.
The legal tussle may impact India’s pharmaceutical industry, which was valued at $33 Bn in 2017, and have a major impact on the sector’s growth which is expected to expand at a CAGR of 22.4% over 2015–20 to reach $55 Bn.