Mumbai, June 9: The Bombay High Court Tuesday asked the Union government to reconsider its pricing policy for N95 masks to ensure that the protective gear remained affordable and prevent hoarding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice SS Shinde said the Centre must take into account the law involving pricing of essential items and accordingly cap the price of N95 masks, said senior counsel Mihir Desai, as reported by NDTV.
The court had earlier asked the Centre to clarify whether it plans to cap the price of N95 masks. It was hearing a plea filed by Sucheta Dalal and Anjali Damania, claiming that prices need to be capped to prevent black marketing of masks during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
In the previous hearing on May 19, Mr Desai had informed the court that there was a shortage of N95 masks for frontline health workers and it was imperative to prevent hoarding or black marketing of the protective gear.
However, the Maharashtra government had told the court at the time that it had already written to the Centre seeking that a ceiling price be fixed for N95 masks.
The Union government’s counsel Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the court that there were no plans to cap the price of such masks, as they were already being sold at a “reduced price by 47 per cent” following the government’s intervention.
On May 21, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority had issued an advisory asking all manufacturers, importers and suppliers of N95 masks to maintain parity in prices for non-government procurements and ensure that masks were sold at reasonable prices, Mr Singh said.
Following the advisory, prices had been slashed by 47 per cent, he said.
The Additional Solicitor General, however, agreed to further reconsider the pricing after the court said otherwise, it will pass appropriate orders.
As per the plea, although N95 masks had been categorised as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act, hoarding and profiteering from the sale of such masks by black marketeers continued in the state.