Won’t act against those who helped Covid-19 patients, provided oxygen: Govt
The Delhi government on Thursday told the high court that it has proposed to take a “sympathetic view” by not initiating any action against any individual, organisation involved in the distribution of oxygen to the needy patients during the second wave of Covid-19 during April-May this year.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government’s Drug Control Department, informed a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh that the department intends to withdraw the prosecution against the individuals and organizations that were involved in the free distribution of medical oxygen, without any intention of commercial gains and whose action has not resulted in hindrance in regular supply of medical oxygen.
The government’s submission came on a petition by Deepak Gupta, represented by advocate Virag Gupta, who demanded lodging of an FIR over allegations that some politicians procured Covid-19 medicines in huge quantities and distributed them even as patients were running from pillar to post to buy them.
An application was also filed by advocate Vedansh Anand in the pending petition, alleging similar charges against AAP MLAs Praveen Kumar and Preeti Tomar.
During the last hearing on July 29, the court cautioned the drug control department against prosecuting the people who acted as good Samaritans and distributed oxygen cylinders during the second Covid-19 wave.
In a status report on July 8, the department told the court that it has initiated prosecution against MLA Praveen Kumar after he was found allegedly hoarding oxygen cylinders. The report also said that prosecution has been launched against BJP MP Gautam Gambhir’s Foundation (GGF), and AAP MLA Imran Hussain for alleged “unauthorised purchase/procurement, stocking and distribution of medicine and medical oxygen”.
On July 29, the bench slammed the department for initiating action against MLA Praveen Kumar, who represents Jangpura constituency, and said it was trying to target a particular political party. The bench said if the department starts prosecuting people like this, it will have to initiate action against “half the city”.
“How can you prosecute him (Kumar)? The State, both Centre and Delhi government, failed in providing sufficient oxygen to people in Delhi. There were some Samaritans who provided oxygen. You can’t prosecute them…. You’re very consciously targeting political parties. It’s very unfortunate. We will not permit this,” the bench said.
Earlier, on May 31, the court accepted the clean chit to MLA Tomar, but slammed the drug controller for giving a clean chit to Gambhir. The court had said that its faith was completely “shaken” on the “trash” findings of the drug controller. Gambhir distributed a Covid-19 drug, Fabiflu, through his foundation to the people in east Delhi free of cost. On June 3, the drug controller told the court that the foundation has violated the provisions of the Drug and Cosmetics Act as he did not have any licence to procure stock and distribute drugs and oxygen.
In the last hearing, the bench said that even though action against Gambhir was justified because he acted “irresponsibly” by hoarding medicines, action could not be taken against Kumar and others who distributed oxygen cylinders.
During the last hearing, senior advocate Kailash Vasdev, appearing for Gambhir, urged the high court to grant him a hearing as he wished to make certain clarifications and also requested the court to clarify in its order that the adverse observations made against him will not be used against the BJP MP before the trial court where prosecution has been initiated against him. The high court made it clear that the observations made by it earlier in these hearings will not come in the way of proceedings in the trial court.
Allegations were also made against AAP MLA Imran Hussain that he was hoarding oxygen for distributing free in his constituency. The court on May 13 dismissed the plea against Hussain taking note of the amicus curiae’s submission that there was no illegality in the purchase and distribution of medical oxygen by the MLA from Ballimaran.