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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Whitewashed inquiry, have lost confidence: HC slams Delhi Police on ‘hoarding’ probe

The high court said since it is projected that these medicines were procured for public charity and not for political gains, the leaders should surrender their stocks to the Director General of Health Services, Delhi government, so that it can be distributed to the needy.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: May 18, 2021 7:06:11 am
Delhi High courtThe court also noted that the Preamble of the Constitution resolves to secure to all its citizens justice and equality.

Delhi High Court on Monday pulled up the Delhi Police for the “vague and whitewashed” inquiry into the allegations of hoarding of Covid-19 medicines by politicians and said it had “lost confidence” after going through the status report placed before it.

The court said it appeared that the police were not interested in bringing out the truth.

“Just because some political figures are involved is no reason not to investigate,” a division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said.

“How many people have died because of lack of these medicines just because they were hoarded by these few people for political gains? Take responsibility,” the court told the police.

The court directed the police to investigate how Covid-19 drugs, which were in “such great short supply and were being sold in black market”, were procured in such large numbers by a few persons.

The court said that it expected these people to surrender the medicines to Delhi’s Director General of Health Services forthwith.

“We hope and expect Delhi Police to conduct proper investigation into the matter and if the case is made out for registration of First Information Report, we expect them to proceed to register the same as well,” the court said.

It gave the police another week to investigate the allegations thoroughly.

In its preliminary report on the allegations of blackmarketing and illegal distribution of Covid-19 medicines against various politicians including All India Youth Congress president Srinivas B V and BJP MP Gautam Gambhir, the police had told the court that it had recorded the statements of nine politicians, and found they had helped people voluntarily and without discrimination.

Gambhir had accepted before the police that his Gautam Gambhir Foundation had purchased 2,628 strips of the antiviral Fabiflu against a doctor’s prescription.

The court rejected the police’s request for another six weeks to complete the investigation, saying they had already had “enough time”.

“You had to go into specific allegations. If some political leader is advertising some medicine free of cost, where is he getting it from? It is in short supply. Does he hold a licence to hold and distribute? How can you be so slack about it? You have to act now. We will not accept this, and we mean business. You had enough time,” it told the police.

The court also said that political parties could not be allowed to use the pandemic for their own gains, and that the police already knew what to do about this.

“They (politicians) have no business in buying and hoarding in bulk and then distributing to gain some goodwill. If people are not cooperating with the investigation, you know what to do. We don’t have to tell you,” it said.

DCP Rajesh Deo submitted that offences could be made out under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, but a Supreme Court judgment precludes the police from prosecuting the accused. With regard to the allegations against Gambhir, Deo said that a medical petitioner was permitted to dispense medicines. Gambhir had claimed that the Fabiflu stock had remained in possession of a doctor during the entire period of distribution.

However, advocate Virag Gupta, representing the petitioner Deepak Singh, told the court that the police were mixing up different types of cases.

“There is one category who have procured it from charitable sources and distributed it freely. Second is where they are saying you can get it from a particular chemist; there can be a case that on a VIP reference the chemists are giving medicine. Third is the Gautam Gambhir category, where he is openly saying he has commercially procured it; the payment was made by Gautam Gambhir Foundation, and it was procured by one doctor, prescription was given by another doctor, and medicine given on the basis of yet another’s prescription. They have not registered a case and not examined invoices”.

The court said that since it had been projected that the medicines were only for charity, it hoped and expected that they would not be used for political gain, and would be surrendered immediately to the DGHS for distribution to the poor and needy members of the public.

“We find it difficult, prima facie, to accept that any doctor can go to the market and buy such a large quantity of medicine which is being sold in black. How did he get it and how is it the chemist gave it to him in large quantities when there is such a huge shortage?” the court asked.

The court, however, declined to order a seizure of the medicine, it must be done in accordance with the law. “We are only saying we appeal to the good sense and that … as good samaritans, as good citizens, as responsible citizens, this kind of activity should not go on. They should themselves go and surrender it.”

Counsel for Delhi Police Sanjay Lao told the court that if an offence was made out under the IPC, an FIR would be registered. “Otherwise if there is FIR under Drugs Act, we will forward a complaint to the drugs controller for taking action against these persons,” Lao said.

The Crime Branch last week questioned leaders of several parties after a petition before the court alleged that a “medical mafia-politicians nexus” was involved in the illegal distribution of medicines.

A division bench of Justices Sanghi and Rekha Palli, while declining the prayer for a probe by the CBI on May 4, had asked the petitioner to approach the police, and sought a status report.

Along with the status report, police had attached statements by Srinivas, Gambhir, AAP MLA Dilip Pandey, Delhi Congress leaders Chaudhary Anil Kumar, Ali Mehdi, and Ashok Baghel, former Congress MLA Mukesh Khurana, and former MP Shahid Siddiqui.

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