New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said it would not stop the prosecution of Bhartiya Janata Party MP Gautam Gambhir – in link with politicians hoarding medicines during the second wave of Coronavirus – noting it “cannot allow a group (to) distribute medicines while people run helter-skelter…”
The apex court, however, said Mr Gambhir could approach the Delhi High Court for relief since that court had not yet passed it order.
“We cannot stop it. You proceed your remedy before the High Court,” a two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said.
“Cannot allow a trust, or group of people, to distribute medicines, while people run helter-skelter for drugs. An individual cannot distribute medicines… Then everybody will procure and distribute for their own purpose,” the court added.
Mr Gambhir’s lawyer withdrew his plea after these remarks.
The ex-cricketer who entered politics ahead of the 2019 election, had filed a plea against the observations of the Delhi High Court on this matter.
In May the High Court came down heavily on the drug controller for allowing Mr Gambhir to procure large quantities of Fabiflu, which had been indicated for use in some COVID-19 cases.
An irked court said the tendency to take advantage of a situation, such as the devastating tragedy wrought by the second wave of the pandemic, to appear as saviours had to be denounced.
“You can’t take us for a ride. If you think we are so gullible, so naive, we are not. You better do your job. If you can’t do your job tell us… we will have you suspended and let someone else do your job,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh had said.
AAP MLA Praveen Kumar has also been found guilty for similar offences under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and action will also be taken against him, the court was informed.
Mr Gambhir’s lawyer, Kailash Vasudev, told the court today that his client had carried out “public service” and is now facing the consequences. The court, however, was unconvinced.
“We had our eye on the ground to see what was happening… People running helter-skelter… that is not on and we cannot allow that,” Justice Chandrachud said.
“You (Gautam Gambhir) are in public life and you have to go through the process. Individuals cannot distribute medicines… Then everybody will procure and distribute,” Justice Shah said.
Mr Vasudev persisted for a while, saying the observations of the High Court were such that his client may never get over it, and requested the Supreme Court to stop any prosecution.
The Supreme Court refused to do so.
In late April Mr Gambhir had offered Fabiflu for free at his constituency in Delhi. This was at the height of the second Covid wave, during which key drugs like Fabiflu were in short supply in hospitals.
Mr Gambhir has stoutly defended his move to distribute the drugs for free.
“If a few 100 strips of tablets obtained from a distributor are being given for free, then, can it be called hoarding? Is my obtaining a few strips of Fabiflu causing the shortage? You can call me wrong but I’ll do everything to save lives of people,” he told in June.
For the unversed, Gambhir’s foundation illegally bought and distributed Covid-19 medicines without permission, Delhi’s drug controller told the High Court today, pledging action in this and other similar cases.
Last month an official had revealed to media that, “The inquiry by the drug controller found that the Fabiflu and oxygen were distributed free by both of them but neither had a license to either buy or distribute. So both have been found in violation of Section 18C of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act for the purchase and distribution of Fabiflu and Oxygen without license.”
The offence carries a punishment of five years in jail.
Meanwhile in April, Mr Gambhir’s offer of free Fabiflu in his constituency had sparked a backlash, with Delhi’s ruling AAP accusing him of hoarding medicines at a time there was a shortage in the capital.
The BJP MP had, however, denied any wrongdoing.