The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the drug controller of the national Capital to conduct an inquiry into allegations of illegally hoarding medical supplies against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Gautam Gambhir and Aam Aadmi Party MLAs Priti Tomar and Praveen Kumar, reported Bar and Bench.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh was hearing a plea seeking registration of first information reports against leaders of political parties engaged in hoarding and illegally distributing Covid-19 medicines, denying access to the drugs to the public at large amid the health crisis.
While Gambhir procured and distributed FabiFlu, used for the treatment of Covid-19, Tomar and Kumar had acquired oxygen cylinders.
Advocate Virag Gupta, representing the petitioner, argued that Gambhir’s act of distributing the medicine without setting up a medical camp shows that there was a nexus between him, chemists and doctors, reported Live Law. The High Court noted that FabiFlu was in short supply when Gambhir distributed the drug.
“Mr Gautam Gambhir must have done it to genuinely help the needy people,” said Justice Sanghi. “Let us be clear about it. But the issue is, is that responsible behaviour? Should he not have realised that medicines are in shortage for others. When people were not getting medicines, should he not have thought about this? Many people would have suffered because of this. This was no way.”
The judge clarified that he was not doubting the BJP leader’s intentions. “The way he has gone about it, he has done a disservice,” Justice Sanghi said. “This wasn’t the way certainly. Even with the best of intentions, they are malpractices. In our society, we can’t permit this.”
The court noted that 285 strips of FabiFlu out of 2,628 strips obtained by Gambhir were left after distribution. It was given to the Directorate General of Health Services. The payment for the procurement of the medicine was done through the Gautam Gambhir Foundation.
The High Court sought a status report from the drug controller, detailing how such a large quantity of the medicine was procured on the basis of a single prescription and then distributed to several people.
Earlier in May, the police had questioned Gambhir, the AAP MLAs, All India Youth Congress President Srinivas BV and other political leaders for alleged black-marketing and illegal distribution of Covid-19 supplies. The police, however, had told The Delhi High Court that there was no proof of fraud against them and that they were “actually helping people”.
Last week, the Delhi High Court had observed that leaders of political parties should not stock up medicines used for treating Covid-19 patients amid shortages.
During the hearing on Monday, Advocate Satya argued that the status report filed by the police did not disclose proper facts and suggested that the investigation in the matter was “shoddy”. He was referring to the matter concerning the hoarding of oxygen cylinders by Tomar and Kumar.
In view of this, the bench directed advocate Nandita Rao, appearing for the drug controller, to inform the High Court what action can be taken against them.
“It appears that the drug controller is not well versed with the powers of investigation/inquiry or prosecution of cases relating to violation of Drugs and Cosmetics Act,” the High Court observed. “So as to have an effective investigation/inquiry or prosecution of cases, we direct the law department of GNCTD [Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi] to ensure that necessary expertise is given to [the] drug controller.”
The matter will be taken up for hearing next on May 31.