The Delhi High Court today sought response of the Centre on a plea seeking direction to authorities to close down "illegal" online pharmacies, which are offering drugs and prescription medicines on their websites.
The petition came up for hearing before Justice Vibhu Bakhru which listed it for further proceedings on February 25 next year.
The court also sought replies of the Delhi government, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, Drug Control Department.
The plea by South Chemists and Distributors Association alleged that the online pharmacy stores were operating without any regulatory restrictions, in contrast to the rules which govern the sale of drugs and prescription medicines through offline pharmacies, also known as brick and mortar shops.
Advocate Amit Gupta, appearing for the association, sought direction to the authorities to take immediate steps in closing down the online pharmacies operating within India in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the Pharmacy Act and the relevant rules and regulations.
The plea claimed that the inaction of the authorities in not taking any action against the illegally operating websites through which scheduled drugs, including antibiotics, narcotic and psychotropic medicines are easily available online is in violation of the rights to equality, life and personal liberty.
It also has serious adverse consequences on the public health. Many drugs have habit forming tendencies and their free availability and uncontrolled usage causes serious damage to the health of the users, the plea said.
It said the citizens' right to health cannot be compromised by the authorities by not taking action against the indiscriminate availability and usage of the drugs and prescription medicines.
It is the duty of the state to ensure that the citizens do not get addicted to drugs and do not damage their health by using prescription drugs without any control, it said.
The plea also sought direction for taking action against the online pharmacies for selling prescription medicines in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Pharmacy Act.
It claimed that the pharmacy stores operated by the members of the association are not allowed to advertise and promote their business by offering discounts but the online pharmacies are being allowed to do so, which is violation of their right to equality before law.
The plea also sought direction to the authorities to ensure that there is level playing field between the online and the offline pharmacies and that the same set of rules and regulations are applicable on all of them.