Kochi: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court directed the State government to publish a notification fixing maximum retail prices of face masks and hand sanitizers forthwith.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chali directed the State government to take stringent action against those who were creating artificial scarcity of face masks and hand sanitizers in the State.
The court, while disposing of a public interest litigation seeking to control the prices of hand sanitizers and face masks, directed the State government to create awareness the maxim prices fixed for the said items. The court also directed the government to create awareness through the print and electronic media.
In its petition, Justice Brigade, an organisation of Kochi-based lawyers, in its petition said that with the number of COVID-19 cases on the increase, sanitizers and masks had disappeared from shelves of medical shops and other outlets.
The State government submitted that the district administration and the government were taking various measures to proactively handle the reported shortage of face masks. The Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, based in Alappuzha had started production of hand sanitizers to beef up their availability in the market. There was scarcity of sanitizers and masks because of the huge public demand for them all of a sudden, the government said in a statement filed before the High Court.
Also read: FDA seizes sanitizers worth Rs 50L
In fact, the Drugs Controller had made all efforts to boost the production of sanitizers by permitting three additional manufactures to produce them. As a result, sufficient quantity of these products were made available for the day-to-day use in the State. Besides, the drug control departments had conducted State-wide raids to unearth illegal manufactures of the products.
The government further submitted that the officers of the drug department had also ensured that sanitizers were not sold at exorbitant prices. The officers had also been asked to maintain strict vigil on the unscrupulous activities such as hoarding and charging of excess prices for sanitizer and hand masks.
All District Collectors had issued orders under the Disaster Management Act authorising the Assistant Drugs Controller to initiate action against black marketeers. The Health Department was taking all steps to prevent the spread of the virus and coordinating all activities on a day-to-day basis.