The Madras High Court has reconfirmed its interim order of last month, when a two-judge Bench had stayed a single judge’s earlier order to stop online sale of medicine.
The Bench of M Satyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam said, however, that the single judge’s (Pushpa Sathyanarayana’s) order for the central government to notify rules for online drug sales by January 31 would continue. They also fixed the final hearing on January 24, for appeals against the single judge’s order.
The two judges said mechanisms were in place to stop any abuse of processes by online pharma firms. Online sales have been on for long and shutting them down will be detrimental, they noted.
Whether the earlier writ petition (demanding a ban) stood on sound ground or not would have to be argued in the main appeal (against judge Sathyanarayana’s order), they said. “ The central government is not opposed to it and is putting in place systems for regulating sales,” they said.
Six online pharmacies and a digital health platform representing their views had appealed against the single judge’s order to ban all online sale of medicine till the Central government implemented regulations on this. The original petition, which had appealed for a ban, was from the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association (TNCDA).
Around 20,000 people work in the online drug sector. There are 1.5 million customers. They are not, aver the online entities, violating any rules.
There are two types of online pharmacies, one acting as aggregators to connect registered pharmacists and the consumer, and the other that have own registered pharmacists and medicine stock and sale licences, under existing rules.
A new set of rules, as mentioned earlier, are in the process of finalisation for online sale.
TNCDA has been arguing that present rules have no provisions for selling medicine through the online route. The fact that draft rules to enable this were still under consideration showed the current sale of medicine online was not legal.
It argued that by existing law, prescription drugs could only be sold by a registered pharmacist against a prescription, and only from premises for which a licence had been issued by a regulatory authority.