SC prescribes circumspection in interim relief in public interest matters

The Supreme Court on Friday said courts should be careful in granting interim relief by putting on hold government notifications in matters involving large public interest, like drug pricing policy.

“We are clearly of the view that in matters where public interest is involved, the court ought to be circumspect in granting interim relief. The consequence of an interim order might be quite serious to society and consumers and might cause damage to public interest and have a long-term impact,” said a bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice R.K. Agrawal in their judgement on Friday.

“We make it clear that it is not our intention to suggest to any court how and in what circumstances interim orders should or should not be passed but it is certainly our intention to make it known to the courts that the time has come when it is necessary to be somewhat more circumspect while granting interim order in matters having financial or economic implications,” Justice Lokur said while speaking for the bench.

Pointing to the consumer interest involved in the drug industry, the judgment refers to the Drug Policy, 1994, which says that in drug industry there are about 250 large units and about 8,000 small-scale units in operation.

These units produce about 350 bulk drugs, and more than 2,000 formulations.

The Drug Policy says that the production of bulk drugs in 1993-94 is in the region of Rs 1,320 crore and production of formulations is in the region of Rs 6,900 crore in the same period.

“… not only is the country’s drug industry extremely large, with heavy financial stakes not only for the industry but also the consumers.

“For this reason, the courts have to be extremely cautious in interfering in any manner whatsoever with the working of the drug industry. Any interference by the courts will have wide-ranging repercussions not only in commercial terms but also for the country’s people,” the judgement reads.

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