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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Medical oxygen distribution: HC slams Delhi drugs control dept for initiating prosecution against AAP MLAs

The department was “very consciously targeting particular leaders of a particular party”, said the division bench hearing the case.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: July 30, 2021 8:08:13 am
Delhi HC"It is so unfortunate that a human tragedy has been turned into a political battle," said the court. (File photo)

Objecting to the Delhi Drugs Controller’s decision to prosecute Aam Aadmi Party MLAs Praveen Kumar and Imran Hussain for stocking and distributing medical oxygen during the second Covid-19 wave, the Delhi High Court Thursday said both the Centre and Delhi government failed to provide sufficient medical oxygen to people and “good samaritans” cannot be prosecuted now for ensuring its availability in the national capital.

On July 8, the drugs control department had filed complaints under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act before a Dwarka court against BJP MP Gautam Gambhir’s foundation and the two AAP MLAs. While allegations against the Gautam Gambhir Foundation (GGF) pertain to stocking and distribution of a Covid drug and medical oxygen, Kumar and Hussain were found to have stocked and distributed medical oxygen in contravention of law. The department gave a 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 division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh said the department was “very consciously targeting particular leaders of a particular party”. “We will certainly not permit this. It is so unfortunate that a human tragedy has been turned into a political battle. You are just trying to make political capital out of it… whether it is you or anybody else,” said the court.

The court on June 3 had stated that though technically procurement of medical oxygen — defined as a ‘drug’ under the law — for personal use via cylinders may also be tantamount to breach of law, the endeavor of the Drugs Controller should be to go only after such violators whose conduct resulted in blocking or choking supply. It had also said cases involving bona fide use of medical oxygen need not be pursued.

On Thursday, 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 some political leaders from a particular party? This was being done across the board, then you please proceed against all the gurdwaras. Be realistic”.

“You seem to be now making capital out of it. We will not permit this political capital being made out of it, and that too in a discriminatory manner. Please then proceed against gurdwaras, temples and every social worker or association or organisation, whichever took up distribution of oxygen,” it said.


While granting time till August 5 to the department to place on record the State’s stand in relation to the aspects of initiation of prosecution against persons who were allegedly involved in distribution of free medical oxygen to needy Covid patients, the court said, “it is a political decision you have to take”.

It further observed that the State would not proceed against others including gurdwaras “for political reasons”.

While distinguishing the case against Gambhir, the court said, “The reason why we picked 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”.

The court also recalled that an application had been moved with respect to Hussain in connection with distribution of medical oxygen, in response to which he filed an affidavit disclosing the source of oxygen cylinders.

“All that we wanted to know in that respect was, was he sourcing his oxygen cylinders from refillers in Delhi. He filed an affidavit to say he was getting it from outside, he provided the particulars, challans etc. So, we said alright there is a man who is getting it from outside. He is helping the community and not lodging out of the supply to Delhi itself… therefore, we said let him go and did not take any action. Somebody is doing a similar thing, then how will you prosecute him?” it added.

Advocate Nandita Rao, representing the department, conceded before the court that a hypertechnical view was taken with respect to Kumar and Hussain. However, Rao added that the prosecution complaints have been filed with regard to licence and it was not the department which went on a witch hunt.

However, the court, while drawing a comparison between the clean chit given to BJP leaders and prosecution of AAP leaders, said, “This is a witch hunt, your next affidavit clearly shows that”.

When Rao submitted that the department proceeded only based on complaints received, the court said, “Why. You do not have your eyes and ears open? It is in their press. Every day pictures were coming in newspapers about who all were holding camps”.

Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev, representing GGF, Thursday told the court that they have moved an application for impleadment in the case.

Vasdev also submitted that the distribution of the Covid drug was held in circumstances “where there was a dire need for everything”.

The Drugs Control department had initiated inquiries into the complaints alleging unlawful distribution of Covid 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.

GGF 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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