Taking suo motu notice of the fact that most manufacturing companies are selling hand sanitizers at a higher rate than prescribed by the government and also of the fact that highly substandard face masks are being sold in the markets, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed authorities in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to proceed as per law against the violators.
“This court is taking suo motu notice of the fact that most companies manufacturing and selling hand sanitizers, even after March 21, 2020, are showing the maximum retail price of such products to be above Rs 250 for 500 mls,” said Justice Amol Rattan Singh in an order passed Friday.
The court directed the authorities to submit action taken reports before July 6.
The court has ordered the secretaries of Health and Food and Supplies departments in Haryana, Punjab and the Union Territory Chandigarh to have raids conducted at chemist shops as well as manufacturing units to obtain samples of hand sanitizers or hand disinfectants.
“…and wherever those are manufactured after March 2020, showing a maximum retail price above Rs 250 for 500 mls or more than Rs 100 for 200 mls, proceedings as per law shall be initiated. If the shops selling the products also are so selling at prices above what is stipulated in the notification of March 21, 2020, then action would be taken against them too, as per law,” reads the order further.
The court has also taken note of the fact that a large number of face masks being sold in the market are of “highly sub-standard quality” to such extent that their strings break off as soon as they are put on.
“Consequently, in the ‘raids’ to be conducted, boxes of masks and individual masks shall also be collected by those of the ‘raiding party’, with the masks to be tested as regards this basic issue of breaking of strings, and if such breaking is found, or the masks are otherwise found to be of sub-standard quality, proceedings as per law shall be taken against all concerned,” the order further reads.
The order has been passed in a case filed by an company against an FIR registered against it in Hisar for selling 500 ml bottle of ‘hand disinfectant’ at Rs 630. The same was found to be in violation of a Government of India notification, according to which the price can be at maximum Rs 100 for a 200 ml bottle and in same proportion for other quantities. The Centre had also capped the price of a 2 ply surgical mask at Rs 8 per unit and that of 3 ply mask at Rs 10 till June 30. The government had brought sanitizers and masks under the purview of Essential Commodities Act to prevent their hoarding and regulate the prices. The company in its petition has argued that hand disinfectants are different from hand sanitizers.
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