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‘Pharma firms will get CSR benefits only if they donate medicines to the poor’

Delhi High Court orders Ministry of Corporate Affairs to add this condition to CSR rules.

New Delhi |
March 26, 2014 1:05:12 am

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs on Tuesday informed the Delhi High Court that pharmaceutical companies would get benefit under corporate social responsibility (CSR) rules if they donate medicines to poor patients afflicted by life threatening or other diseases and cannot afford expensive treatment.

Earlier, the government had said work done in the “normal course of business” would not be eligible for CSR credit, following which the court had asked for clarifications.
The submissions were made on Tuesday before the court of Justice Manmohan, on two pleas filed by patients suffering from rare life-threatening diseases. One has been filed by a rickshaw puller, the father of a seven-year-old boy suffering from a rare enzyme disorder, while the second is by a 35-year-old patient suffering from haemophilia. The patient requires treatment costing nearly Rs 1 lakh daily and had sought the court’s help to get financial aid from the government.

On the last date of hearing, the MCA had said under the changed CSR rules, pharmaceutical companies would not get CSR benefit for donating their products. The rules had also excluded healthcare and research from CSR, restricting it to “preventative healthcare” only.

The court had then pulled up the government, seeking an explanation for such change in the rules.

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On Tuesday, advocate Maneesha Dhir, appearing for the ministry, said that pharma companies will get the benefit of CSR if they donate medicines.

The ministry also submitted that it has decided to amend the entries in the CSR policy to the extent that “promoting preventive health care” will be modified to “promoting healthcare including preventive healthcare”.

“This would encompass the entire health care area, including the treatment of diseases, etc,” the ministry said.

The court has now asked the ministry to make this clarification official by way of inserting an explanatory note in the CSR rules regarding this aspect.

The court also directed the Centre and Delhi government to explore the possibility of releasing money from various relief funds including that of the Prime Minister and the Lt-Governor for treatment of the bedridden haemophilia patient.

Justice Manmohan asked the Delhi Health Secretary to send a representation to the Lt-Governor, asking him to release money from the L-G’s relief fund for treatment of the haemophilia patient.

During arguments, the Delhi government also said that right to life cannot mean providing unlimited funds for the treatment of a single individual. The counsel for the state also argued that right to health cannot be stretched so as to mean to provide free health facilities to a terminally ill patient while other citizens are not even provided basic health care.

The court, however, observed that the treatment of the minor boy can go on till the government frames a policy for providing free healthcare to critical patients requiring expensive drugs.

The court also asked Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra to “see if any money can be released from Union Health Minister’s relief fund, PM’s relief fund and Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi”.

The replies from the government are expected on Wednesday.

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