New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it has increased the cap on prices of all brands of condoms in the country by 22 per cent. However, the increase in prices comes to Rs 1.48.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw which was hearing a plea by pharma firms Reckitt Benckiser and J K Ansell Ltd (JKAL) who have challenged the government's decision to put a ceiling on the prices of condoms.
During the proceedings, the central government's Standing Counsel Sumeet Pushkarna handed over to the bench a July 10, 2014 notification issued by the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) as per which the ceiling on condom prices was increased from Rs 6.56 to Rs 8.04 per condom.
Pushkarna also said that pharma firms are, however, selling condoms at much higher prices like Rs 46 per condom despite there being no stay on the government notification. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of the firms, agreed that they have been selling at higher prices but contended that their products are 'devices' not 'medicines' and thus would not fall under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) and therefore, no cap can be put on their prices.
Reckitt and JKAL have also sought clarification regarding the basis for the price revision, asking what all aspects, including other brands and prices, were considered by NPPA. The firms have claimed their products are luxury products "meant for pleasure" and have also sought clarification on whether the current ceiling would apply to only utility condoms and whether NPPA proposes to fix a separate cap on "pleasure condoms".
They also contended that since the prices have been revised by NPPA, admittedly after taking into consideration prices of some other brands -- like Durex and Kohinoor - an exercise which was not conducted back in 2013 when the cap was fixed at Rs 6.56, hence, the companies are entitled to be compensated for selling their condoms Rs 1.48 cheaper from December 2013 till date.
The court will now hear further arguments on July 24. The companies had challenged the November 5, 2013 notification as per which the ceiling on condom prices was fixed at Rs 6.56. They have contended their objections to the earlier notification are applicable in respect of the latest one as well.
In its petition, Reckitt Benckiser has argued that the low ceiling price will force bigger companies to stop production, which in turn will have a negative effect on population control measures. The central government, however, is of the view that since condoms help to prevent diseases, they came under the classification of 'medicines' and, hence, their prices can be controlled.