The Karnataka High Court on Thursday directed the Central Government to clear its stand on whether face mask including N95 masks and Hand sanitizers should be included in the list of Essential Commodities, for effective price control and availability of the items, as the number of COVID-19 cases are multiplying across the country.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar said:
"In the context of the fact that from July 1, the number of COVID-19 positive cases in different parts of the country have multiplied and in some part they continue to multiply with speed, it follows there will be more need for use of N-95 mask and hand sanitizers. In this context, the Central government will have to take a stand on oath whether the said items should be treated as Essential Commodities so that their prices are effectively controlled. It will be an important factor in the fight against coronavirus."
The court also directed a competent officer of the Government to file a statement giving reasons which compelled the Central Government to take a stand to remove the items from the list of Essential commodities post-June 30 and leave the price control of these items to be decided by market forces. The Central government had in March by issuing a notification included face mask and hand sanitizers in the list of Essential commodities, which was to be in effect till June 30.
The court has also directed the State government to respond on the following issues:
1. Whether N95 mask and hand sanitizers are available in the market and are there any complaints of non-availability of the items?.
2. Is there any price variation in N95 masks, manufactured by different manufacturers?.
3. At what price the State government purchased a large number of N95 masks for the benefit of doctors/Health workers etc, from time to time.
The state is also to make its stand clear on to treat N95 masks as essential commodities and whether their price should be controlled.
The court will next hear the case on August 18.