The Delhi High Court Monday asked the Centre and Delhi government to prevent black marketing and hoarding of medicines and medical equipment, including oxygen concentrators.

It also directed the Delhi government to file a status report on seizure of hoarded equipment and medicines and orders passed by the SDMs for release of the same.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing a PIL seeking directions to declare medicines and medical equipment meant for Covid treatment as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act. It said if something has to be done, “do it without waiting for orders from the court”.

The court issued notice to the Union Health Ministry and the Delhi government on the plea which has also sought setting up of fast track courts to deal exclusively with cases of black marketing and hoarding of medicines and equipment.

The petitioner, a Delhi resident Manisha Chauhan, asserted that since the medical equipment have not been included as essential commodities, hoarders and black marketers would not be brought to justice. Advocate Sanjeev Sagar referred to instances where oxygen cylinders were being sold for up to ₹1 lakh and an oxygen concentrator worth about ₹15,000 was sold for ₹50,000-60,000.

A submission was also made by advocate Praveen K Sharma that the Central government should not permit individuals to import oxygen concentrators.

In response, Central government counsel stated the private importers were coming into the market in view of the duty exemptions granted by the authorities. “Price has been looked into. We are trying to see if something can be done...There are so many importers. To regulate at this stage.. there are too many things. People are getting them in couriers,” he said.

The Court observed that unless there is cartelisation, the prices will go down in the market.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma stated that National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed prices of medical devices notified as drugs. “It’s not that there is no regime in place.. but there is room for improvement. With the Amicus, we will sort it out,” ASG Sharma stated.

‘VIP hospitals’

The Delhi government’s notification reserving rooms in four hotels linked with two hospitals for treatment of officials of various public authorities and their families too was challenged before Justice Sanghi and Justice Palli who issued notice to the city’s Health Department seeking its stand on the challenge to its notification.

The plea has been filed by a Delhi-based doctor, Kaushal Kant Mishra.

According to the Delhi government’s April 27 notification, 70 rooms in Hotel Ginger at Vivek Vihar here, 50 rooms in Hotel Park Plaza in Shahadra, and 50 rooms in Hotel Leela Ambience at CBD Ground, linked to Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital and all the rooms in Hotel Golden Tulip at Hari Nagar, which is linked to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (DDU), are reserved for the treatment of officials of Delhi government, autonomous bodies, corporations, local bodies and their families.