The Delhi High Court Wednesday told the Centre it was "high time" that Maximum Retail Price of oxygen concentrators and other equipment in demand for COVID treatment was fixed to immediately stop their hoarding and black marketing.
The high court made the observation while issuing contempt notices to all the persons named in the cases filed after May 2 in connection with hoarding and black marketing of medicines and equipment required for treating COVID-19, and directed them to appear before it virtually on May 19.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said the notices would be served to the accused through the police stations where the cases have been registered.
It said the notices would also go to those persons whose names were added in the 40 odd cases during the course of the investigation.
The high court passed the direction after it was informed by advocate Sanjeev Sagar that in the hearings before the trial courts, in connection with these cases, the public prosecutors as well as the judicial officers appeared to be unaware of the May 2 order of the bench to book those engaged in hoarding and black marketing.
The high court in its May 2 order had also said that such individuals, booked for black marketing and hoarding be brought before it for taking contempt of court action against them.
The bench was then informed that a trial court has said that offences cannot be "made up" against such individuals and the option was to book them for contempt of court if they are selling medicines or equipment at exorbitant rates.
The bench was shown media reports which said that the concerned trial court, while hearing the anticipatory bail filed by businessman Navneet Kalra in connection with the seizure of oxygen concentrators from his upscale restaurants, had said that first a law has to be made to regulate the prices and people cannot be penalised in a hurry because the high court wanted steps to be taken.
Amicus curiae and senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao said the trial court cannot be blamed as Maximum Retail Price has not yet been fixed for a majority of the imported equipment and the central government has to inform the high court what steps it has taken.
Mr Rao said a lot of people will escape prosecution in the long run as no maximum retail price has been fixed for the imported medicines and equipment for COVID treatment.
The lawyer for the central government said the issue was under consideration and sought time to inform the bench as to what decision has been taken.
The high court said that as early as June last year the process to fix prices of domestic and imported oxygen concentrators and other equipment was started, but was left unfinished.
"It is high time that MRP of oxygen concentrators and all of the other equipment in demand (for COVID treatment) be fixed so that black marketing and hoarding is immediately stopped.
The court asked Mr Sagar to prepare a note on the issue of price fixation, for informing public prosecutors and judicial officers in the subordinate courts, and said it will be circulated by the Delhi government.