The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Central Government to respond on a plea filed against linking of the Government mandated Aarogya Setu App with a website for promotion of E-pharmacies.
The bench of Justice Jayant Nath has directed the Union of India to file a reply within 10 days. The Court has further directed the Union of India to respond to oral submission made by the Petitioner that the offline pharmacies having licenses be also listed on the website aarogyasetumitr.in. The next date of hearing is 29 May, 2020.
The notices have been issued in the petition filed by South Chemists & Distributors Association, assailing the alleged "highly illegal, arbitrary and discriminatory" linking of the two.
The Petitioner-organization had submitted that the said website promotes and acts as a "marketing tool" for e-pharmacies and the Government Application is being used "arbitrarily", for the benefit of selected handpicked companies.
"It is submitted that Respondents cannot act in an arbitrary, whimsical, unfair and discriminatory to allow the goodwill and recognition generated by the government owned mobile application, to be used for the commercial benefit of selected few entities, in complete violation of principles of equality and reasonableness.
There is absolutely no basis for a government owned platform be used to promote private commercial ventures," the Petitioner had argued.
The Petitioner further submitted that linking of the website with a Government app was deceptive inasmuch as it gives a wrong and misleading impression to a user that the website as well as the information made available on it is also government mandated and approved.
It also argued that similarity in the names of the mobile application and the website was "intentional".
"The website http://www.aarogyasetumitr.in seeks to take advantage of the name and goodwill which has been generated by the mobile application "Aarogya setu," even though the website is not government owned and solely promotes vested interests," the Petitioner submitted.
It was further pointed out that E-pharmacies are illegal as per the law of the land and yet, they continue to operate despite an injunction order passed by the Delhi High Court itself.
In this backdrop, the Petitioner had prayed that the Government be directed to take all steps to ensure that the name "Aaarogya Setu" or any identical/deceptively similar name is not misused to sponsor the commercial interests of "arbitrarily handpicked entities". Further, a direction has been sought to immediately close the website in question, for being contemporaneous.
Inter alia, it was contended that there is no mention that medicines can also be procured by the local pharmacy stores which operate offline.
"It is submitted that there is no rationale or basis as to why the entire list of government authorized and licensed pharmacies is made available on the website, http://www.aarogyasetumitr.in, and the user is not informed that the medicines can be procured and made available from the nearest pharmacy stores. It is submitted that the medicines can be procured through local pharmacy stores itself and home delivered so as to ensure that social distancing is maintained during the current times."
In face of this submission, the Court queried as to why a local pharmacy cannot supply the medicines after home delivery is allowed. He also raised queries on the requirements for getting listed on the website.
On behalf of the Union of India it was submitted that these are extraordinary circumstances and the website has been developed for easy accessibility of medicines to COVID patients.
The Petitioners were represented by Mr. Sudhir Nandrajog, Sr. Advocate, Amit Gupta and Mansi Kukreja.
The Respondents were represented by Ms. Maninder Acharya, ASG and Kirtiman Singh.