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Bombay HC asks state to probe and explain how politician, actor got Remdesivir

The Bombay high court (HC) has directed the state to conduct a thorough inquiry into the alleged supply of Covid essential drugs by MLA Zeeshan Siddiqui and actor Sonu Sood from BDR Charitable Trust at Mazagaon and the pharmacy in Lifeline Hospital at Goregaon (East), respectively, and to find out how these two entities got the injections while supply of Remdesivir was solely at the prerogative of the Central government
By KAY Dodhiya, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 17, 2021 12:37 AM IST

The Bombay high court (HC) has directed the state to conduct a thorough inquiry into the alleged supply of Covid essential drugs by MLA Zeeshan Siddiqui and actor Sonu Sood from BDR Charitable Trust at Mazagaon and the pharmacy in Lifeline Hospital at Goregaon (East), respectively, and to find out how these two entities got the injections while supply of Remdesivir was solely at the prerogative of the Central government.

The court also sought details on the research reports that indicated that smokers are more susceptible to Covid-19 and asked the Mumbai civic body about measures initiated to provide shelter and basic facilities to the homeless and pavement dwellers during the pandemic.

A division bench of justice SP Deshmukh and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PIL) filed by advocate Sneha Marjadi, activist Nilesh Navlakha and others on various issues pertaining to Covid management during the second wave and availability of drugs to treat mucormycosis, was informed by advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhaoni that the state had filed a reply to the queries raised by the court in the previous hearing.

While responding to the query on how Siddique and Sood had provided injections like Remdesivir, Kumbhakoni submitted the inquiry into both the cases had revealed that while Siddique had directed people to procure the injections from the charitable trust at Mazagaon, Sood had procured the injections from a pharmacy located in a hospital at Goregaon. He further submitted that a criminal case had been registered against the trust while further probe into the pharmacy revealed that the injections were procured from the Cipla godown at Bhiwandi.

When the court questioned why only the charitable trust and its trustees were booked and not Siddique, Kumbhakoni responded that the MLA had only diverted people to the trust. “But all this happened at the behest of one person, to direct someone is not an offence? In both these cases, we would expect the government to seriously examine role of the two,” said the bench.

The court further said, “When they act as messiah, do they even check if the drugs are spurious? It is very easy that anyone would go to social media and say that I am the person coming to your help. Is it a good situation? The government is doing everything but at the same time you have a parallel agency? We are leaving it to your conscience to examine role of these two?”

Kumbhakoni then assured the bench that as a first step they wanted to go to source of matter and then determine individual roles.

The AG then responded to the query about smokers being more susceptible to Covid and said there were three reports by foreign researchers based on which an Indian doctor had concluded that smoking did have an effect. The court then sought opinion on what steps could be taken by the government as smokers were more vulnerable and what best possible steps could be taken along with data on how many such patients were admitted and treated.

7,511 mucormycosis cases in state so far

The state while updating the court of the mucormycosis cases informed that there were 7,511 mucormycosis patients till June 15, of which 4,380 were active cases and 675 patients died.

On being asked if the deaths were due to the shortage of supply of Amphotericin-B injection, Kumbhakoni submitted that analysis of the deaths was going on. With regards to Mumbai, he submitted that there were 396 active cases, of which 114 were Mumbaiites while 282 were from outside the city.

Additional solicitor general Anil Singh informed the bench that the Centre had imported mucormycosis treatment drugs from Gilead, USA and distribution was equitable among states. When the bench asked why only 18,450 vials were supplied between June 8 and 15 while the demand was nearly 17,000 per day, Singh said the drug was being supplied as per availability.

Senior counsel Anil Sakhare for Mumbai civic body also informed the bench that there was a shortage of Amphotericin B, following which Kumbhakoni assured it would be taken care of to some extent with the supply of 22,000 vials from June 18 to 20 and 18,000 vials from June 21 to 30 by Haffkine Institute.

The bench has posted hearing of the PIL’s to Friday, June 25.

Mumbai civic body providing 10,000 packets of food

While responding to the query on measures initiated for the homeless and pavement dwellers, the counsel for the Mumbai civic body submitted that it was providing 10,000 packets of food for each meal through individual wards. It added that it also had 24 buses to reach food and basic necessities to the poor and needy thrice a day.

The counsel also assured the bench that temporary shelters were being provided for the needy to safeguard them from the rains as well.

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