SC queries Minister on status of legislation

PMRP fundamental Rights case

Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has been given time till January 18th to inform the Supreme Court as to what he has done to introduce legislation for the implementation of the long-delayed National Medicinal drugs policy whereby quality drugs could be made available to all the people at affordable prices.

This order was given on the Fundamental Rights petitions filed by the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients and Yohan Bibile, grandnephew of Prof. Senaka Bibile whose essential medicines concept was hailed by the World Health Organisation and is being effectively implemented in some 100 countries, though not in his own country

The petitioners claim by delaying legislation for a National Medicinal Drugs Policy – for which a comprehensive draft had been presented to the Minister and approved by the Cabinet in October 2005 – the Minister was denying the people their fundamental right to have access to quality drugs at affordable prices.

The petitions were taken up by the Supreme Court in August and September. Later Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva presented the draft National Medicinal Drugs Policy to the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Health.

When the case came up on Thursday, the Attorney General’s Department informed Court the policy had been presented to the Parliamentary Advisory Committee and an advertisement was published by the Health Ministry in newspapers on October 9 calling for public views or suggestions on this policy to be made before November 1.

Attorney Chrishmal Warnasuriya appearing for the petitioners pointed out the comprehensive draft which had been given to the Minister in July 2005 and approved by the Cabinet in October that year was presented to the Parliamentary committee four years later.

This comprehensive draft for a National Medicinal Drugs Policy had been prepared by Professor Chrishantha Weerasuriya, the World Health Organization’s South Asia drugs policy advisor, at the invitation of the Health Minister. He prepared the draft after four days of consultations among all stake holders. The Minister appointed a National Standing Committee to work out draft legislation based on the comprehensive draft. The AG’s department said yesterday the draft legislation for a National Medicinal Drugs Policy was being prepared.

The Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, Justices Chandra Ekanayake and K. Siripavan gave the Minister time till January 18 to inform Court about the introduction and implementation of the National Medicinal Drugs Policy.

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