New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking to de-link from Aarogya Setu mobile app a website which is promoting sale of medicines through e-pharmacies.
Justice Jayant Nath, who conducted the hearing through video conferencing, asked the central government to file the reply within 10 days and listed the matter for further hearing on May 29.
The plea, filed by South Chemists and Distributors Association, said the website, www.aarogyasetumitr.in, is linked to the official mobile application Aarogya Setu in a “highly illegal, arbitrary and discriminatory manner” as the website promotes and acts as a marketing tool for e-pharmacies only.
It said that the homepage of the website states “here are some essential healthcare services you can avail from the safety and comfort of your home” and then lists only the e-pharmacies.
“There is no mention that medicines can also be procured by the local pharmacy stores which operate offline. It is submitted that the respondents (authorities) cannot be allowed to mislead the users of a government developed and mandated mobile application to believe that the drugs for treatment of COVID – 19 or to contain the spread of the disease are available only through the e-pharmacies,” said the plea, filed through senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog and lawyers Amit Gupta and Mansi Kukreja.
The Centre, represented through Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya and lawyer Kirtiman Singh, opposed the plea and said these are extraordinary circumstances and the website has been developed for easy accessibility of medicines to COVID-19 patients.
The petitioner’s counsel said the court has also asked the Centre to respond to the oral submission that offline pharmacies / local chemists having licences be also listed on the website.
The petition said there is absolutely no basis for a government owned platform be used to promote private commercial ventures.
It sought direction to the Ministry of Electronics and IT, National Informatics Centre and Niti Aayog to take steps so that the name ‘aarogya setu’ or any identical/ deceptively similar name is not mis-used to sponsor the commercial interests of arbitrarily hand-picked entities.
The Aarogya Setu application makes use of bluetooth and GPS to alert users who may have encountered people who later test positive for the coronavirus.
It further sought to take steps for immediate closure of the website.
The plea said the authorities have allowed government developed mobile application ‘Aarogya setu’, which has been launched with a salient feature of limiting the spread of COVID-19, to be used for the benefit of selected handpicked companies
“The mobile application ‘Aarogya setu’ itself gives a link to website http://www.aarogyasetumitr.in/ which 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 said.
It claimed that the similarity in the names of the mobile application and the website is “intentional” and the website seeks to take advantage of the name and goodwill which has been generated by Aarogya setu, even though the website is not government owned.
The plea said the criteria for getting listed as a vendor on the website is that the entity should be an e-pharmacy, which is “arbitrary, without any intelligible differentia, wholly illegal and discriminatory”.