"Political leaders have no business to hoard stocks of these medicines. We expect them to surrender to the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) which will then distribute it to the poor and needy people at government hospitals. This is the best way to do public service," said a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh
Political leaders have no business to hoard stocks of COVID-19 medicines that are already in shortage and they are expected to surrender these drugs, said the Delhi High Court which on Monday also expressed dissatisfaction over a “vague and whitewashed enquiry” report filed by the Delhi Police over the allegations against politicians hoarding and distributing medicines, including Remdesivir, in national capital.
Just because some political figures are involved, you will not investigate, we will not allow this, said the court adding that it would have appreciated if the police had enquired into specific allegations levelled against each person and then filed the report. However, the court, which was hearing a PIL seeking lodging of an FIR on the allegations that politicians are able to procure in huge quantity and distribute COVID-19 medicines even as patients were running from pillar to post to get them, said since it is projected that these medicines were procured for public charity, it hopes and expects that they are not hoarded for political gains.
“Political leaders have no business to hoard stocks of these medicines. We expect them to surrender to the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) which will then distribute it to the poor and needy people at government hospitals. This is the best way to do public service,” said a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh and added that if their intention is to do public good, they should themselves go and surrender the stock.
The police, in its status report, said the political leaders, including cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir, have been actually helping people in getting medical aid in the form of medicines, oxygen and others and have not charged any money and no one has been defrauded. The police, represented through standing counsel Sanjay Lau, said the enquiry in the alleged instances is being conducted on a day-to-day basis and the officials have examined Lok Sabha MP and BJP leader Gautam Gambhir, President of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee Chaudhary Anil Kumar, ex Congress MLA Mukesh Sharma, BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana, AAP MLA Dilip Pandey.
The others who have been enquired are Vice President Congress (Delhi) Ali Mehdi, Block adhyaksh of Congress (Delhi) Ashok Baghel, ex MP Bijnor Shahid Siddiqui and President of All India Youth Congress Srinivas BV. The enquiry conducted so far has revealed that all the persons alleged to have been hoarding medicines etc, have been actually helping people in getting medical aid in the form of medicine, oxygen, plasma or hospital bed, the person enquired into have not charged any money for the help provided, and thus no one has been defrauded. The distribution/ help has been voluntary and without discrimination, the report said.
The police sought six weeks to examine the issue and conclude the enquiry, which was declined by the court on the ground that pandemic is going on right now and the police force shall stand up as it owes a duty to citizens. The court asked, “what is the point of this vague and whitewashed enquiry. How can you be slack about it. The pandemic is right now, you have to act now. We are making it very clear that we will not accept this. We mean business. You had enough time, this is completely unacceptable. Political parties have no business to control this pandemic.”
The bench, which expressed dissatisfaction over the status report filed by the police, said people have to act reasonably and they have no reason to buy these medicines in bulk and distribute it to gain goodwill while others are forced to buy it in black at much higher prices. The high court said it expects the police to conduct a proper investigation in the matter and file a better status report within a week. It also asked the amicus curiae to prepare a report on the issue.
It said the status report shall clearly mention how medicines, which were in huge shortage and sold at higher rates in black market, were procured by few persons in large quantities. How many people have died because of the shortage of these medicines, do you realize. So fix some responsibility, the bench told the police. It impleaded the drug controller as a party to the proceedings and issued notice to him for May 24.
When the police claimed that a particular doctor has procured these medicines and through him, some of the leaders took the stock, the court said prima facie it was difficult to believe that any doctor will go to market and procure these medicines in huge quantities when the drugs are in shortage. Lau submitted that if court passes an order, the police will seize the stock today itself. To this, the bench said it will not direct for seizure and if the law provides for it, the police shall take its own course.
It said if a cognisable offence is made out, the court expects police to lodge an FIR. The high court earlier asked the police to examine the instances of politicians allegedly procuring and distributing Remdesivir in the national capital.
Petitioner Deepak Singh, the chairperson of Hruduya Foundation and a national level shooter, has questioned how politicians are able to procure large stocks of the medicine without having the requisite permission under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, when the normal public was not getting it.
Advocate Virag Gupta, representing Singh, said strict action be taken against the politicians, who were allegedly indulging in black marketing, as they cannot procure it in the absence of a licence.