Black marketing of COVID-19 drugs condemnable attempt to exploit peoples' misery: SC

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New Delhi, May 3 (PTI) Black marketing of critical COVID-19 drugs and oxygen is a condemnable attempt to exploit peoples' misery, the Supreme Court has said, directing the Centre to consider constituting a special team to identify and prosecute offenders.

The apex court also said that a protocol must be evolved for ambulances to avoid extraction of unconscionable charges from citizens and the Centre can consider creating a platform for easy reporting and redressal of such cases.

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud noted that several critical drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, are being sold at significantly inflated prices or in fake form.

'This is a condemnable attempt to exploit peoples' misery and profit from their helplessness,' the apex court said in its order uploaded on its website on late Sunday night.

'In order to clamp down on this practice, the Central Government can consider constituting a special team to identify and prosecute those who: (a) sell medical grade oxygen/COVID-19 medicines at exorbitant prices; and (b) sell fake substances and recover the concerning substances,' said the bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat.

The Centre had earlier told the apex court that hoarding/ black marketing is a serious menace and is a heinous offence apart from being an unpardonable act of trading in human miseries.

The Centre told the bench that Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has directed all State Drug Controllers to conduct a special investigation drive to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of anti-viral Remdesivir in the country.

The directions were passed in a suo motu case for ensuring essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bench has taken up issues such as the projected demand for oxygen in the country at present and in the near future, how the government intends to allocate it to 'critically affected' states and its monitoring mechanism to ensure supply. PTI PKS MNL SJK SA