A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha was hearing a public interest litigation, filed by lawyer Datta Mane on the strikes declared by the members of Maharashtra State Chemist and Druggist Association.
The PIL was filed last year when the association had declared to go on strike protesting action initiated against errant chemists by the FDA for not complying with rules prescribed in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
The bench was today informed by the association's advocate Ashutosh Kulkarni that despite having met the government authorities on two occasions, they have not been able to reach at an amicable solution.
"The chemists and drug store owners are facing the same difficulties. It has increased now with the FDA imposing fine on the chemists if the pharmacist is not present in the shop even for an hour or two. FDA has also issued notices to several chemists saying that if the store is kept open for more than eight hours then two pharmacists should be appointed," Kulkarni said.
Under the rules, a pharmacist has to remain present in a drug store so as to curtail sale of prescription medicines over the counter.
Asking the government and the association to continue their meetings and to arrive at a solution, the Chief Justice suggested the government to permit a pharmacist to take a break of few hours in the afternoon.
"The pharmacist can be in the shop in the morning and evening and can take a break in the afternoon," the court said.
Mane, in his PIL, had sought invocation of provisions of Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA).
In 2012, the FDA has booked around 35 chemists in Maharashtra, of which seven operate in Mumbai, for errant practices like not maintaining adequate records while dispensing abortion drugs.
The regulator has also issued 2,100 show cause notices to chemists across the state.
Meanwhile, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) today called for a nationwide bandh on May 10 to protest against "unjustified" government policies.
Nearly 7.5 lakh chemists and druggists will take part in the strike, AIOCD said in a release here.
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