5 more SC petitions against move to buy medicine directly from Indian firmsView(s):
By Namini Wijedasa
Five people have petitioned the Supreme Court against Health Ministry moves to procure medicines from private Indian companies through unsolicited proposals, bypassing regulatory oversight.
This is the second case filed in the public interest before the apex Court on the same subject. Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has also challenged the role of the Cabinet in procuring medical supplies through unregistered private suppliers and in non-compliance with procurement guidelines, including the emergency procurement process.
The petitioners are Lionel Guruge, Dr M.K. Ragunanthan, Prof. H.T.C.S. Abeysena, Christopher S. Edwards and Christine B. S. Perera. There are 35 respondents including two Indian companies–Savorite Pharmaceuticals (Pvt) Ltd and Kausikh Therapeutics (Pvt) Ltd.
The primary objective of the application is stated as safeguarding the health, safety and lives of all those persons, including the petitioners, who may use or avail themselves of these medicines and pharmaceuticals anywhere in the country; as well as ensuring the safety, quality, and efficacy of medicines and pharmaceutical products manufactured abroad and imported to Sri Lanka directly through unregistered suppliers.
The petitioners say they are aware that one or more respondents have sought to circumvent the law, regulations, guidelines and procedures for the procurement and importation of medical supplies on an unsolicited basis and through direct contracts with private parties and manufacturers who were not registered with the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), purportedly under the Indian Credit Line extended to Sri Lanka by India and other unspecified means of funding.
The petitioners verily believe it is “an artificially created/contrived urgency with the primary objective of facilitating the said purported direct procurements without any form of transparency or objective scrutiny and in order to further the ulterior motives of certain Respondents and/or persons with vested interests”.
The application points out that several medical professionals and organisations and members of the public have lodged numerous complaints, objections and protests over the acts of the Health Minister and Health Ministry to directly procure medical supplies from unregistered private suppliers, whilst circumventing the applicable procedural and legal imperatives.
It also holds that the purported urgency (if any) to procure any medicines and pharmaceutical products that are essential “has been created by the negligence, ineptitude, poor planning, and mismanagement of the Ministry of Health and/or institutions falling under the purview of the said Ministry, such as the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation and the MSD [Medical Supplies Division].
Meanwhile, the TISL petition was taken up on Friday. The respondents were given two weeks to file additional information and objections. The case will be taken up again on March 24, to support for leave to proceed and to consider the interim relief asked for, including that no further action should be taken on these orders until the case is concluded.
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