Medical Oxygen IP and Nitrous Oxide IP are ‘drugs’ as per Section 3(b)(i) of the the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has held that Medical Oxygen IP and Nitrous Oxide IP falls within the ambit of ‘drugs’ under Section 3(b)(i) of the the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and are consequently covered in Entry 88 of the Andhra Pradesh Value Added Tax Act 2005. It said,

“Medical Oxygen IP and Nitrous Oxide IP are medicines used for or in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of any disease or disorder in human beings falling within the ambit of Section 3(b)(i) of the 1940 Act.”

The Court noticed that the comprehensive nature of the definition of ‘drugs’ under Section 3(b)(i) includes both medicines and something other than medicines, but which are used for treatment. A substance may be a product, which though not specifically used as a medicine is used for diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of diseases. Where a product other than a medicine is intended to be used for or in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of any disease or disorder, the same would be a „substance? falling within the ambit of Section 3(b)(i).

Explaining the law on interpretation, the Court said that the words of a statute should be first understood in their natural, ordinary or popular sense and phrases and sentences should be construed according to their grammatical meaning, unless that leads to some absurdity or unless there is something in the context, or in the object of the statute to suggest the contrary. It, hence, noticed,

“The ordinary or popular understanding of the term medicine is characterized by its curative properties in general and specifically, its use for or in diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of any disease or disorder.”

Medical Oxygen is used for the treatment of patients and to mitigate the intensity of disease or disorder in human beings. In order to carry out critical surgical procedures, supplemental oxygen is administered to patients. Medical Oxygen is also administered in resuscitation, major trauma, anaphylaxis, major hemorrhage, shock and active convulsions, amongst other conditions. Nitrous Oxide is used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic effects.

[State of Andhra Pradesh v. Linde India Ltd.,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 362, decided on 13.04.2020]

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