NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the Centre’s decision to decontrol prices of 108 cardiac and diabetes drugs.
The PIL alleged that hike in prices of life saving drugs was against the public interest and would lead to windfall gain to the pharmaceutical companies at the cost of endangering lives of millions of Indians.
A Bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu, Justice S A Bobde and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre agreed to hear the PIL after counsel M L Sharma told the court that the government by its September 22 order denuded the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) of its power to control drug prices.
Urging the court to quash the September 22 circular as being against the interest of the general public, arbitrary, unconstitutional and illegal, Sharma has sought a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the circumstances leading to the decision to withdraw the NPPA guidelines.
Sharma in his petition said the government without any basis issued the September 22 circular withdrawing the NPPA’s power to control and regulate the prices of the drugs, and the sole beneficiary were the drug companies.
The PIL said that it was incumbent upon the government to act or frame policies that protect the life of the citizens of India - a mandate of Article 21 guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty.
“There are around 4.1 crore diabetes, 5.7 crore coronary heart disease, 22 lakh TB, 11 lakh cancer, 25 lakh HIV/AIDS and 6 crore blood pressure patients in India and another life threat due to impugned circular for decontrolling order and price rise in medicines,” the petition said.
Drug pricing regulator NPPA had withdrawn guidelines for price control issued under Para 19 of the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO), 2013.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) had invoked Para 19 of the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO) to cap prices of 108 cardiac and diabetes drugs on July 10.