Delhi High Court Grants Eight Weeks for Central Government to Frame Policy on Online Sale of Drugs

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In a recent development, the Delhi High Court has extended an eight-week deadline to the Central government to formulate a comprehensive policy addressing concerns surrounding the online sale of drugs. Acting Chief Justice Mini Pushkarna emphasized that ample time had passed, with over five years elapsing since the publication of a draft notification. This decision was made during a hearing on a petition filed by Dr. Zaheer Ahmed, the South Chemists and Distributors Association (SCDA), and others, highlighting the government’s inaction on e-pharmacies.

online sale of drugs

Justice Mini Pushkarna ordered that if the policy isn’t framed within the stipulated period, the Joint Secretary responsible for the policy must appear in court on the next hearing date, scheduled for March 4, 2024. The court expressed concerns about the delay despite previous orders and reiterated the need for the government to finalize regulations for Online Sale of Drugs.

The SCDA informed the court that despite an existing order preventing online pharmacies from operating, implementation has been lacking. The Central government has repeatedly sought extensions, stating ongoing consultations on the draft notification from August 28, 2018 (No.G.S.R.817(E)). The court, while acknowledging the need for justice, granted one last opportunity to frame the policy within eight weeks.

The Delhi High Court had earlier directed the Government of India to report outcomes of consultations related to the five-year-old draft notification within six weeks. The court clarified that the ongoing matters wouldn’t hinder the government from taking action against those violating the interim order of December 12, 2018, supporting chemists and druggists organizations. Stakeholder consultations and objections to the draft rules for online pharmacy sales are yet to be finalized by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO).

In response, CDSCO has received representations opposing the draft rules and is contemplating fresh stakeholder consultations. The regulator has also communicated directives to State and Union Territory drug regulators to prohibit online sale of medicines without a license, emphasizing the need for compliance until further orders. The next hearing is scheduled for March 4, 2024, where the progress and compliance with the policy formulation will be assessed. Stay tuned for further updates on this critical development in the regulation of online drug sales in India.

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