Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

India eyes capital punishment for death 'merchants'

REUTERS , NEW DELHI

Indian lawmakers will consider the death penalty for death "merchants" behind a flood of fake medicines killing untold numbers of people and costing legitimate drug makers almost US$1 billion a year.

Parliament is due to debate tomorrow the recommendations of a special government medical committee looking at the "spurious drugs" trade, including the death penalty proposal, health department officials said yesterday.

The committee found existing laws were too soft and called for the death penalty for makers and sellers of fake drugs if they caused death or serious suffering, an idea already mooted by Health Minister Sushma Swaraj despite opposition by rights groups.

"Penal provisions have not acted as adequate deterrents and have not instilled the desired extent of fear among offenders," the committee, which included leading doctors, said in its report.

Swaraj has been personally spearheading the push to make counterfeit drug making a capital offense for those she calls the "merchants of death."

A decision on the death penalty for these "merchants of death" is not expected until after the committee presents its final report in three months. An estimated 15 percent to 20 percent of all medicines on pharmacy shelves across India are fake.

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