August 5, 2021 2:36:08 pm
The Delhi government Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it has “proposed to take a sympathetic view” by not initiating any action against all those individuals, organisations and religious institutions who have been involved in free distribution of medical oxygen to Covid-19 patients.
The government also told the court that it intends to withdraw the prosecution which has been filed against those individuals or organisations who have been involved in free distribution of medical oxygen without any intention of commercial gains and whose action has not resulted in blocking and choking of medical oxygen supply.
A Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh last month had objected to Delhi Drug Controller’s decision to prosecute Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs Praveen Kumar and Imran Hussain for stocking and distributing medical oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19. It had observed that both the Centre and Delhi government failed to provide sufficient medical oxygen to people and “Good Samaritans” cannot be prosecuted for ensuring its availability in the national capital.
The drugs control department on July 8 filed complaints under Drugs and Cosmetic Act before a Dwarka court against Gautam Gambhir Foundation and AAP MLAs Praveen Kumar and Imran Hussain — latter is also a cabinet minister in Delhi government. While allegations against the BJP MP Gautam Gambhir’s Foundation pertain to stocking and distribution of a Covid-19 drug and medical oxygen, Kumar and Hussain have been found to have stocked and distributed medical oxygen in contravention of law.
The department has given clean chit to Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta and leader of opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri in a private complaint alleging unlawful distribution of medical oxygen by them.
The High Court had on June 3 stated that though technically procurement of medical oxygen — defined as ‘drug’ under the law — cylinders for personal use may also tantamount to breach of the law, the endeavour of the Drug Controller should be to go only after such violators whose conduct resulted in blocking or choking the supply. It had also said that cases involving bona fide use of medical oxygen need not be pursued.
On July 29, the court, while commenting on filing of complaints against Kumar and Hussain, said, “If this is the way you are going to proceed, then half of Delhi you should proceed against. Why are you only picking up only some political leaders from a particular party? This was being done across the board, then you please proceed against all the Gurdwaras. Be realistic”.
Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, Thursday told the court that the decision to take a sympathetic view has been taken at the level of state health minister. However, Mehra added that there could be issues regarding the question of competent authority.
“The executive thinks that the matter ends when the minister has given his assent to the policy. The officials think that it has to go to Hon’ble LG. I have suggested to them that wherever it has to go, we must bring an end to all of this. We can’t at the cost of all these internal issues let it go on like this. Hopefully in the next few days we will bring this to a finality,” submitted Mehra, adding the draft policy has been approved by the minister.
Terming the government decision a “very fair approach”, the court said that it was “hopeful that said proposal will find favour with all concerned”.
Delhi’s Drugs Control department had initiated inquiries into the complaints alleging unlawful distribution of Covid-19 drugs and oxygen in pursuance of orders passed by the High Court in June in a petition filed by Dr Deepak Singh. The petition alleged that a “medical mafia-politicians nexus” was in existence, and they were indulging in illegal distribution of medicines during the second wave. Advocate Vedansh Anand had filed an application in Dr Singh’s case, seeking an inquiry against Kumar and Hussain.
The court on Thursday declined to entertain an application filed by Gambhir’s Foundation for impleadment in the case. It said the foundation can take the remedies available in law with regard to the action initiated against it. “We don’t want to continue with this matter. An issue was flagged that there are people who are holding these camps for oxygen and hoarding of medicine, we have passed the orders,” the court added.
While distinguishing the case against Gambhir, the court last month said, “the reason why we picked up Mr. Gambhir’s case is because very irresponsibly he buys 10,000 tables of Fabiflu in one go and then he is stocking that… he is distributing to people in his constituency… so much so that at the end of it all he was still left with some 236 odd strips”.
Gambhir’s Foundation had organised a free medical camp at Jagriti Enclave from April 22 to May 7 to aid people suffering from Covid and 2,343 strips of the drug were distributed free of cost to attendants of Covid patients against prescriptions produced by them.
Kumar had organised a temporary oxygen refilling facility from May 4 to May 19 in Lajpat Nagar and refilled cylinders in Punjab’s Bathinda. Hussain had “organised and conducted a free medical oxygen distribution activity” at his camp office in Ballimaran between April 25 and May 5. He and others had obtained 10 cylinders on rent and medical oxygen for them from a dealer in Faridabad.
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