NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has directed that COVID-19 related tests should be made available to the general public at the lowest cost possible as the country is going through an unprecedented medical crisis affecting public order.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Rare Metabolics and Aark Pharmaceuticals, seeking the release of 7.24 lakh COVID-19 test kits from respondent Matrix, importer of kits, which was seeking full payment upfront before delivering them. The two companies have entered into an agreement with Matrix, over the distribution of the test kits in the country.
Justice Najmi Waziri issued the direction to all three companies to import 10 lakh test kits from China and distribute them here at a price not beyond Rs 400 per kit inclusive of GST.
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"The country is going through an unprecedented medical crisis affecting public order. People have been cloistered in their homes or constrained to stay wherever they were on March 24. A profit mark-up of Rs 155 that is 61 percent on the landed cost price of Rs 245 is much on the higher side and in any case more than sufficient for the seller," Wazir said.
Observing that the economy is virtually at a standstill for the last one month, the court said that there is an element of "disquiet apropos" one's safety.
"For people to be assured that the pandemic is under control and for governments to ensure and for agencies engaged in the frontline battle to safeguard people's health, more kits/tests should be made available urgently at the lowest cost, for carrying out extensive tests throughout the country," the court said stressing that public interest must outweigh the private gain.
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It further added that the litigation between the parties should give way to the larger public good. "In view of the above, the kits/test should be sold at a price not beyond Rs 400/- per kit/test inclusive of GST," the court said.
The counsel appearing for petitioner Rare Metabolics Life Sciences Private Limited upon instructions, submitted before the court that in the interest of the country he would not pursue the matter any further and would give up all further claims, in case if the importer undertakes to sell the product at not more than Rs 400 each, inclusive of GST.
"Indeed, both parties agree to the principle public interest should be paramount and the tests should be made available to the general public at the lowest cost possible," the court said.
The counsel for the respondent Matrix Labs submitted that the respondent is ready to supply the kits/tests at Rs 400 each, plus GST at 40 per cent lesser than the ICMR approved rate, directly to any government or its agency or private entity duly approved to carry out these tests.
After hearing both sides the court disposed of the petition.
On March 27 and 28, the ICMR/National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research placed an order on rare metabolic for 5,00,000 COVID-19 rapid tests.