The Bombay high court (HC) has directed the Union of India to inform it of its proposal to cap pricing of N-95 face masks after it was informed that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), the government regulatory agency that controls prices of pharmaceutical drugs in the country, had failed to keep the price of the masks under check. The court was told that NPPA’s failure had resulted in widespread exploitation by manufacturers and traders who inflated the price of masks due to the heavy demand in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice SS Shinde, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activists Anjali Damania and Sucheta Dalal, was informed that the price of N-95 masks had skyrocketed after they were included under the Essential Commodity’s Act. The activists further informed the court that while NPPA had capped the price of other products like hand sanitisers, it had failed to do the same for masks.
Also read: List of revised prices of N-95 masks: NPPA
The court was informed that after the public protested against the high cost of N-95 masks, the NPPA in a meeting convened on May 15 had said that it had asked manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the price of the mask in light of the pandemic, which they agreed to do. The activists added that though the Drug Price Control Act stipulates that prices could only be increased by 10% annually, the reduced price was still higher than the price it was being sold at before the lockdown and hence, sought directions to put a cap on the same.
After the court expressed displeasure at the uncontrolled rise in the prices of N-95 masks, additional solicitor general Anil Singh, appearing for the Union of India and NPPA, sought time to take instructions and said that the authorities would consider capping the mask prices, which the court allowed and posted the matter for further hearing on June 12.