May 6, 2022 5:18:29 pm
Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil has requested the Gujarat High Court to dismiss a public-interest petition seeking an inquiry into the “illegal” distribution of Remdesivir by him and the party’s Majura MLA during the Covid pandemic’s second wave.
“The pendency of the PIL is being misused by the petitioner (Congress MLA Paresh Dhanani), who is an arch political rival of respondents 3 and 4 (Paatil and Sanghavi). The PIL is as such not maintainable as per rules of the high court and in the coming days it will be used as a bugle,” senior advocate Nirupam Nanavaty, appearing for Paatil, who is also the Navsari MP, submitted on Thursday.
Nanavaty argued that the petition was non-maintainable because it relies on “newspaper reports, unverified newspaper and media reports”.
Amreli Congress MLA Paresh Dhanani moved the court last year contending that the Remdesivir injection had been distributed illegally from the Surat BJP office when there was an acute shortage of the antiviral drug across the country.
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In April 2021, the Navsari MP and MLA Harsh Sanghvi announced that the BJP would give 5,000 Remdesivir injections free of cost to needy patients from the party’s office in Surat, with 500-1,000 injections planned to be distributed daily.
Dhanani, in his petition, sought that an expert committee of “highly distinguished and neutral persons” be constituted to inquire into the incident and submit a report to the court. The court was also urged to take action on the basis of the report. His petition invoked the Pharmacy Act of 1984, Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, Disaster Management Act of 2005, and Epidemic Diseases Act of 1987.
The Congress leader also wanted the high court to direct state authorities including the Surat collector, city police commissioner and the Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) to ensure that such acquisition and distribution of Remdesivir injections by “the office of a political party or any other place which does not have registration and licence…does not happen in future”.
The FDCA had conducted an inquiry and given a clean chit to the BJP and its workers, stating that “there does not appear to be any violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1960, or any other provisions under any other law”.
On Thursday, advocate-general Kamal Trivedi, representing the state government, reiterated the FDCA stance before the bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri.
Justice Kumar opined that the distribution did not appear to be illegal, remarking that Remdesivir manufacturers had been instructed to supply 60 per cent of its production to the government and 40 per cent to private distributors.
“Our inquiry reveals it (the distribution) was out of that 40 per cent (private quota) and the donors made the payment and the distribution took place in the presence of the distributors. Our conclusion is, these people (Paatil and Sanghavi) have never acquired and never distributed [any drug]. They were facilitating, that’s all. There’s no black marketing. Payment is in cheques,” said Trivedi.
Nanavaty said Paatil and Sanghavi “made their effort to see to it that Remdesivir injections are acquired and disbursed to needy persons with the assistance of doctors”.
As Nanavaty insisted on an early hearing for the matter, the court wanted to know the reason. “Urgency is, this is being politically misused. I’m worried about the coming days. This is political-interest litigation,” said the lawyer representing the state BJP chief.
The bench, however, instructed Nanavaty to “file the necessary application” for an early hearing of the petition again.
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