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No legal basis for Gambhir clean chit in Covid drug distribution case: Delhi HC to Drug Controller

The High Court also asked the Drug Controller to file a revised status report before it by Thursday.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: May 31, 2021 8:13:02 pm
Gautam GambhirGautam Gambhir (file photo)

The Delhi High Court on Monday rapped Delhi’s Drug Control Department for giving a clean chit to BJP MP Gautam Gambhir without a proper enquiry into how his foundation was able to procure a Covid drug in bulk, and asked the Drug Controller to file a revised status report before it by Thursday.

The court said its confidence was completely shaken and observed that the report is not worth the paper it is written on. “If your Drug Controller is not interested in doing the job, then we will ask that he be removed and let somebody else take over. What investigation? This is trash. There is no legal basis to it,” said the bench during the resumed hearing of a case alleging illegal distribution of Covid medicines by political leaders during the pandemic.

The Drug Controller, in the report, told the court that the distribution of Fabiflu strips by the Gautam Gambhir Foundation appears to be covered by an exception mentioned in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act since the drugs were given away during an event which is being treated as a medical camp organised under the supervision of a doctor of Garg Hospital. Exemption 5 of Schedule K of the Act, which was cited by the Drug Controller, grants an exemption to a medical practitioner in the supply of drugs to his own patients under the law.

“How could such a large stock of medicine be given to a Foundation which is not a medical practitioner? Even medical practitioner…could a medical practitioner have gone to a dealer and said ‘give me 4000 strips of this medicine’?” said the court, questioning how in the absence of a license the purchase has been treated as a closure case by the Drug Controller.

The court also pulled up the counsel representing the Drug Controller and said it does not want to be told that so many lives have been saved. “Have you taken the trouble to go through the rules or have you just simply accepted this status report prepared by them and placed it before us?” the court asked Additional Standing Counsel Nandita Rao. “If you are arguing for the Drug Controller, please argue for the Drug Controller.”

When the Drug Controller submitted that dealers from which the Fabiflu was procured by the Foundation had ample stock to supply to other retailers and there was no shortage, the court said, “Please do not tell us there was no shortage. We all know there was a shortage.”

The court also took exception to Gamhbir’s statement that he “will do it again”. It said that if he does it again, the court knows how to deal with the issue and it will do so. “This tendency of people trying to take advantage of a situation of a crisis in the city or in the country and then trying to appear as saviours while they are actually creating the problem…This is a pernicious activity which has to be denounced,” it said.

The court added, “He (Gambhir) may have had good intentions but then you have to be mindful of the kind of steps you are taking. What is the good to be achieved and what are the pitfalls? There are always two sides to the coin.”

It said that thousands of needy people would have otherwise gone to the chemist shop and bought it. “On the day they needed it, they were not able to. Time was of essence. People who needed it on the day when they were purchased by this gentleman, they were not able to. 286 strips are left which shows he brought more than what is required,” observed the court.

The court said it wanted the Drug Controller to probe how the dealer sold it to a Foundation and whether the dealer was not legally bound to only sell it to a retailer. It also said the purchase in the case has not been done by a hospital and there is a fundamental flaw in the Drug Controller’s approach in probing the matter.

“It is not relevant whether it was in short supply or not and you are wrong in saying it was not in short supply. We all know it was in short supply. You want us to shut our eyes to it. You think you will get away with this kind of a false statement. Don’t we know what the situation on ground was like? One thing is very clear. You cannot take us for a ride. If you think we are gullible, so naive; we are not. We will give it back to you very, very hard,” added the court.

With regard to the allegations pertaining to the distribution of medical oxygen against AAP MLAs Preeti Tomar and Praveen Kumar, the court accepted the status report with regard to Tomar alone. “They have come out with whole story. It is a different matter that the channel of nodal officer has been bypassed which should not have been done. This is not a case of breach of any law. The cylinders were of the hospital, they were required to be re-filled…Let’s not unnecessarily try to victimise somebody who is trying to help. There is no illegality involved,” said the court.

The court, however, rejected the report filed regarding Kumar.

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