New Delhi, May 31 (ILNS): The Delhi High Court today made it clear that politician Gautam Gambhir’s action of distributing COVID-19 medication from his trust, without a proper licence to do so, may have been a clear violation of existing rules.
The Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh also did not like Gambhir’s comment that he will do it again when complaints were filed against “him for hoarding medicines for COVID-19” and said that this will go against him, if he says it again.
The hearing was on a plea with respect to hoarding of drugs by politicians such as Gambhir, Prabin Kumar and Preety Tomar. Regarding MLA Tomar, the court said it was satisfied with the status report filed, but was, again, dissatisfied with the action of Prabin Kumar.
Earlier, the Drug Comptroller had been directed to file a status report in this regard.
Advocate Nandita Rao, appearing for the Drug Comptroller, pointed out to the Bench that the “Drug Comptroller is not familiar with the criminal procedure and they don’t have the power to arrest. It was my mistake. Had these investigations been done by the police, an FIR could have been lodged and a detailed report could have been filed. But the Drug Comptroller people are not familiar with the code of criminal procedure. There is no training.”
The advocate explained that the preliminary inquiry showed that there was no prescription issued by the Gautam Gambhir Foundation. “We found that there was a request letter by Garg Hospital to Gautam Gambhir Foundation for requirement of medicines.”
She said: “This letter was from Dr Manish of Garg Hospital, citing requirement for medicines. The Foundation procured medicines from various licensed dealers. Licensed Dealers have provided Fabiparavir over a period of time.”
Justice Sanghi asked: “Is it open for a dealer to supply it to anyone?”
Nandita: “As per my understanding the hospital should procure it in the first place. That procedure is time consuming. This possible delay of a week (to follow procedures) may have cost a lot of lives.”
Justice Sanghi: “Ms Rao, we will not take such arguments. He interrupted the normal flow of medicines. He goes and procures thousands of these medicines and says they are having a camp. It all shows that the purchase was not valid. If you are appearing for the Drug Comptroller, just argue on that behalf. We will not hear this. As a counsel we expect you to know what is there in the report. If it is under your pen, you better be ready to answer it.”
Nandita: “My Lords may give me two days. This is mentioned in the report. I personally…”
Justice Sanghi: “Present us a relevant report, about the use, method and mode and regulations of how these drugs are sold.”
Nandita: “(Reading from the report) This purchase falls under exception 5 of schedule K.”
Justice Sanghi: “How is this relevant? Have you applied your mind?”
Nandita: “The letter from Garg Hospital was treated as a prescription, whereas the need is a prescription per patient and not cumulative.”
Justice Sanghi: “Ms Rao, just answer the question. How has one organization been given thousands of medicines? Have you taken the trouble to go through the rules? Or have you just presented this report?”
Nandita: “This report came to me yesterday.”
Justice Sanghi: “Does this foundation have a licence?”
Nandita: “No. The Drug comptroller has considered it a exception.”
Justice Sanghi:”How can they do that?”
Nandita: “The chemist has the licence for that sale.”
Justice Sanghi: “Have you examined it? This is trash. There is no legal basis to it.”
Nandita: “May I get a week’s time?”
Justice Sanghi: “Mr Rao (referring to the Amicus), have you looked at it?”
Amicus Raj Shaekar Rao said: “The report is not clear whether the Condition were verified. (Reading from report) Firstly, on what basis did Dr Manish arrived at that that number? Please note the date — from May 27 to 29. Where is the record of day to day requirement? Where is the data? There is a serious issue, even in terms of how the Drug Comptroller reached its conclusion.” The Amicus also said that whether any money was paid or not is not issue. The issue is “how did they procure it?”
The Amicus said: “These medicines were procured when he had no idea about who the patients were. Ms (nandita) Rao is right in this aspect. Only the registered medical practitioner can supply the drug… Now please see the condition. The exemptions are subject to the following conditions: they should be bought only from a licensed dealer and it should be open to inspection. The annexures are not placed on record.”
Nandita: “We have made a detailed report. Kindly wait, I have called the officer.”
Amicus: “I can see that the foundation has placed Aadhaar card to whom medicine was given, but how did that took the record, how did they managed it. They have not submitted the details of patient who were given the medicine later after camp. A medical practioner cannot hold 3,000 medicines as per rules. They can direct it to give it to a particular patient.”
Justice Sanghi: “See Ms Rao, this is a disservice. They appear to be saviour when they are actually doing wrong. On asking, the person is saying he will do it again. If he does it again, we will see. That person needs to realise what they are doing. Thousands of needy people who would have otherwise gone to the chemist and purchased it, didn’t get it. Time was of essence, but it was not available at the chemist. He bought more than required. Also It is not relevant whether the supply was short or not. But how can you say there was not a short supply? We are not gullible. We are not naive, we will not entertain this kind of attitude. If you can’t do your work we will suspend you. Where is your drug controller?”
Nandita: “We were in a hurry, if you give us time for a week.”
Justice Sanghi: “We want to hear him today.”
The order of the bench was as follows: “Ms Rao submits that due to paucity of time, documents can’t be submitted. We have perused these status reports, wrt to Preety Tomar MLA we are satisfied and accept the said status report.
“However wrt to report of Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar, MLA, we are completely dissatisfied and it appears to us the Drug Comptroller has not appreciated the legal aspects which should have been examined as per the act.
“For instance it is not being examined as to how the Gautam Gambhir Foundation has procured the drug (Fabiparavir, Fabiflu) from the licensed dealer/ retailer. The status report doesn’t disclose as to what are the statutory regulations wrt locus of the person, who can procure the said drug, can these drug be supplied to unauthorised person?
“It appears that there are certain factual contradictions in two reports by Delhi Police and Drug Comptroller. Both learned counsel for petitioner and Mr Swain have highlighted several contradictions relating to reports relating to Mr Gautam Gambhir and Praveel Kumar MLA, respectively.
We permit petitioner and Swain to file during the course of day, statement relating to Factual circumstances and supply copy to learned amicus (Raj Shekhar Rao) and Ms Nandita Rao ( Drug Comptroller).
“Mr KR Chawla (Assistant Drug Comptroller) joined the proceeding. Both Chawla and Rao expressed regret wrt status report and submitted that they shall file a better report after taking in into account the factual as well as legal provisions. Let the same be done positively by Wednesday morning.”
However, when Chawla asked for one more day, the judge agreed. The bench will take it up on June 3. ILNS\KR\SJ\RJ