The Bombay high court on Thursday directed the state government to look into the grievances of chemists and druggists in order to avoid the hardship being caused to the public at large because of their stand to shut shops at 6pm.
The division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Anoop Mohta was hearing a PIL filed by activist Datta Mane in view of call of strike given by Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association.
On Thursday, Mane's counsel Snehal Ratnakar pointed out that the strike was causing hardship to the public at large.
Advocate Ashutosh Kulkarni, who represented the association, pointed out that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) was initiating action against them if a qualified pharmacist was not present in the shop. "Stop sale notices are issued even if the qualified chemist is gone to respond to nature's call when the FDA officer pays a visit," Kulkarni said.
He clarified that the association had no role to play in the ongoing agitation and it was not possible for their members to keep the shops open for more than eight hours, as qualified pharmacists don't remain present in the shop throughout the day.
Government pleader Sandip Shinde said the state government was espousing possibility of invoking provisions of the Essential Services Act of 2011. He submitted that the chemists have given undertakings to keep their shops open for 12 hours a day at the time of issuance of their licences by the FDA and therefore the present agitation is contrary to the undertakings.
The judges, however, did not find any fault with the adherence to 10am to6 pm schedule.
"We do understand that this would be causing hardship to the public at large, but what can they do if the authorities, on one hand, insist on presence of a a qualified pharmacist and also that the shops to remain open throughout the day," they said.