On Monday, the Delhi High Court rejected the Drug Controller Department’s report that gave a clean chit to BJP leader Gautam Gambhir and others involved in illegally storing Fabiflu, a vital pharmaceutical required to treat the patients of coronavirus. The court declared that there was no legal foundation for it, rejected the report as “trash”, and asked the department to file a better status report before it by Thursday.
During the public interest litigation (PIL) hearing filed to seek an FIR against Gambhir and others engaged in the incident, the Indian Express quoted the bench, “If your Drug Controller is not interested in doing the job, then we will ask that he be removed and let somebody else take over. What investigation? This is trash. There is no legal basis to it.”
The bench comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh highlighted that not examining how the Gautam Gambhir Foundation acquired such a large quantity of drugs, was a fundamental error of approach.” How could such a large stock be given to a foundation which is not a medical practitioner. We dare say it is not permissible,” said the court.
The bench further chastised former Indian team cricketer Gambhir for stating that he will continue to undertake a similar job. The court stated it was also appropriate to criticize the propensity of persons using themselves and “trying to be a savior” and the court knows how to take care of such a situation in case it occurred again. Referencing Gautam Gambhir, it said that the person must realize and be cautious of the strips he is consuming.
On April 21, the MP tweeted that residents in his Lok Sabha constituency of East Delhi may acquire Fabiflu for free from his office. At the time, India, particularly Delhi, was seeing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths during the second wave of infections. This resulted in a scarcity of medications, medical supplies, and hospital beds.
The High Court stated that everyone was aware that the drug was in short supply, and that while Gambhir bought thousands of strips of the medication, other people who need it could not obtain it on that day. The court remained critical of the fact that such a significant quantity of Fabiflu strips was handed to a single foundation. They also questioned how such an event could be classified as a medical camp since the hospital did not get the medication. It ruled that had the medications not been acquired in this manner, thousands of people could have obtained them via local pharmacies.
On May 7, in response to Deepak Singh’s petition, the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi Police to examine charges of hoarding of oxygen cylinders and medications such as Fabiflu. Nevertheless, the police exonerated Gambhir and nine more after a brief investigation, including BV Srinivas, President of the Indian Youth Congress, BJP politician Harish Khurana and AAP politician Dilip Pandey. Following this, the court directed Delhi’s Drug Controller Department to undertake an impartial investigation into the allegations.
According to the department’s findings, Gambhir’s purchasing of the medicine through his foundation was protected by an exemption in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. The Drug Controller cited that the pills were distributed during an event perceptible as a medical camp and overseen by a Gargi Hospital doctor.
The court also summoned the lawyer for the Drug Controller and stated that it does not want to be informed how many lives have been saved. “Have you taken the trouble to go through the rules or have you just simply accepted this status report prepared by them and placed it before us?” the bench asked Additional Standing Counsel Nandita Rao. “If you are arguing for the Drug Controller, please argue for the Drug Controller.”
Gambhir, on the other hand, has denied any misconduct and stated that the Gautam Gambhir Foundation organized a free medical camp between April 22 and May 7 to aid patients suffering from COVID-19. According to the cricketer-turned-politician, the camp was organized by a doctor who offered his skills.
The court declared that its trust in the department had been undermined, dismissing the status report and instead of directing the Drug Controller to prepare a better one by June 3.