Coronavirus: Supreme Court seeks government’s response on price gouging of masks, sanitisers

Updated on Apr 02, 2020 01:52 PM IST

The court gave liberty to the petitioner to serve a copy of the petition to the central government’s second senior-most law officer, solicitor general Tushar Mehta and posted the case for hearing on April 3.

The petitioner claimed that due to the rise in demand for these commodities, as a result of the coronavirus threat, chemists and medical shops were selling them at a price much higher than the MRP.(File photo)
The petitioner claimed that due to the rise in demand for these commodities, as a result of the coronavirus threat, chemists and medical shops were selling them at a price much higher than the MRP.(File photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByMurali Krishnan

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the central government and Delhi government in a plea by the NGO, Justice for Rights Foundation highlighting price gouging of masks and hand sanitisers.

The petitioner claimed that due to the rise in demand for these commodities, as a result of the coronavirus threat, chemists and medical shops were selling them at a price much higher than the maximum retail price (MRP) as well as the price prescribed by the government.

“If the chemists and other medical outlets persist with the current mode of functioning, it will affect the most vulnerable section of our population like daily wage workers and other economically challenged citizens, who would not be able to purchase masks at such prices”, the petition said.

The court gave liberty to the petitioner to serve a copy of the petition to the central government’s second senior-most law officer, solicitor general Tushar Mehta and posted the case for hearing on April 3.

The petitioner alleged that several chemists and medical outlets, in an attempt to defraud and profit from the coronavirus outbreak, were striking out the MRP of masks and sanitisers and applying their own price labels.

In order to deal with this, the government had come out with notifications and orders declaring face masks and hand sanitizers as essential commodities and capping their prices.

“The Department of Consumer Affairs, in wake of the need and urgency of the present condition, published a notification dated 21 March 2020, fixing the prices of the mask i.e. 2 ply masks to be priced at Rs 8 and 3 ply masks to priced at Rs 10 and that the sanitiser bottle of 200 ml to be sold at a price of Rs 100,” the petition pointed out.

The petitioner claimed that despite the notification, medical outlets were still selling masks and sanitisers at higher prices in brazen defiance of the notification.

Fair and equitable distribution of N95 masks and hand sanitisers is essential in order to deal with the pandemic of Covid-19, the petitioner submitted.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday also sought the response of the central government in another petition filed by a Nagpur based doctor, Jerryl Banait seeking directions to ensure that all health professional including doctors, nurses, ward boys, other medical and paramedical professionals who are attending to and treating Covid-19 patients, are provided with World Health Organisation-graded protective equipment.

“It is imperative for doctors to be in constant contact with patients, so as to monitor them on regular intervals and observe their symptoms. In the absence of appropriate protective gear, doctors put themselves at the risk of being affected by the virus in the discharge of their duties. It is the duty of the States to ensure graded protective gear to doctors and other welfare facilities, so as to aid them to combat the virus”, the petition said.

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