Updated: March 14, 2020 12:20:09 pm
To check the exorbitant prices of face masks and hand sanitisers in view of the coronavirus outbreak, the government on Friday declared the two items as “essential commodity” under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The move paves way for action against offenders under the EC Act as well as Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 (PBMMSEC Act). Under the EC Act, an offender may be punished with an imprisonment upto seven years or fine or both, whereas under the PBMMSEC Act, an offender can be detained for maximum of 6 months.
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A statement released by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said, “In view (of) the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and concern of the logistics for COVID-19 management particularly during last couple of weeks and that masks (2 ply & 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand sanitizers have been noted to be either not available with most of the vendors in the market or are available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices, Government has notified an Order under the Essential Commodities Act to declare these items as Essential Commodities up to 30th June, 2020 by amending the Schedule of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.”
The statement said the decision would “empower the Government and States/UTs to regulate production, quality, distribution” of the two products, and was taken to “smoothen the sale and availability of these items and carry out operations against orders speculators etc. and those involved in over pricing, black-marketing etc”.
“It will enhance the availability of both the items to the general people at reasonable prices or under MRP,” the statement said.
The ministry also asked states to publicise helplines for registering complaints by consumers.
“The consumers may also register their complaints in this matter with the National Consumer Helpline No. 1800-11-4000, Online Complaints: http://www.consumerhelpline.gov.in, Department’s Website http://www.consumeraffairs.nic.in, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org,” the statement said.
The decision came after reports of masks and hand sanitisers being sold at exorbitant prices in many cities of the country.
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