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Can’t prosecute good Samaritan: Delhi HC on charge against AAP MLA for procuring oxygen for Covid patients

The bench, however, distinguished this case from BJP leader Gautam Gambhir who stocked and distributed a large cache of Covid-19 medicine, by saying he was “irresponsibly holding” them.
Written by Sharangee Dutta | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 29, 2021 08:54 PM IST
The Delhi high court said that if Delhi;s drug control department had to proceed with such a prosecution, it should aim all temples, gurdwaras, churches and social organisations that also arranged and distributed medical oxygen to Covid-19 patients. (HT File Photo)

Hearing a case of prosecution launched against some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders by Delhi’s drug control department for procuring and arranging medical oxygen for patients during the second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the Delhi high court on Thursday said that it’s very unfortunate that a “human tragedy” has been used for “political capital”.

Coming down heavily on the drug control department, the court took exception to the prosecution case launched against AAP MLA Praveen Kumar, who as a ‘Good Samaritan’ arranged medical oxygen for Covid-19 patients when both the Centre and the Delhi government failed. The court termed the action as consciously targeting leaders of a particular political party and witch-hunting.

The bench comprising Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh further said that if prosecution is to be initiated, it should also be applicable for all temples, gurdwaras, churches, and social organisations, among others, who also procured and arranged medical oxygen for Covid-19 patients.

“Why pick one person? The state, both the Delhi government and the Union of India, failed in providing sufficient medical oxygen to the people of Delhi. Some good Samaritans provided oxygen. You can’t prosecute them,” the bench noted.

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The court also referred to its earlier decision that stated the issue of medical oxygen is different and technical from the one associated with hoarding coronavirus medicines. In this case, the court distinguished Kumar’s case with that of former Indian cricketer-turned-BJP leader Gautam Gambhir, who had obtained, stored and distributed massive amounts of Fabiflu among coronavirus patients.

“The reason for picking Gambhir’s case was that he was very irresponsibly holding the Covid-19 medicines in huge quantities. He may have had the best of intentions but this is not allowed,” the bench clarified.

It further asked the drug control department as to how they can take such a “hyper-technical view” when the court had mentioned in its earlier order that prosecution shouldn’t be initiated against oxygen. “If this is the way you are going to proceed, then proceed against half of Delhi,” the bench said.

Meanwhile, the advocate of the drug control department informed the court that it has launched prosecution against Gautam Gambhir Foundation – which has the BJP MP as one of its trustees — and another AAP MLA Imran Hussain Kumar for their alleged violations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. On Wednesday, a trial court had taken cognisance of the matter and issued summons to both Gambhir and Imran for August 26.

The high court, however, made it clear that the adverse observations they made of Gambhir’s actions regarding hoarding coronavirus medicines, shall not come in the way of the trial court’s proceedings.

The high court was hearing a petition seeking registration of FIR in allegations that some politicians can procure and distribute vast quantities of Covid-19 medicines, even as patients were hunting for them.

Earlier, the drug control department had apprised the high court of finding Gambhir Foundation guilty of “unauthorised stocking, procuring and distributing Fabiflu medicine to Covid-19 patients.” The court in return condemned how Gambhir had taken away the medicines during the second wave of the virus outbreak and said genuine patients who needed them couldn’t get it.

However, in case of prosecution launched against Kumar for procurement and distribution of medical oxygen, the high court granted the drug control department time to clear its stand on whether it wishes to prosecute everyone associated with the action. The matter will be heard on August 5.

(With inputs from PTI)

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