Cannot allow celebrities, politicians to derive mileage by distributing COVID drugs when needy patients are not getting it: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday took strong exception to politicians and celebrities garnering mileage by distributing COVID drugs at a time when needy patients are unable to procure the same.

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said that such state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue and also expressed its displeasure at the inaction by the State government in dealing with the issue.

The Court had during the previous hearing sought an explanation from the Central and State governments on how Remdesivir, the drug used for treatment of COVID-19 patients, and which is scarce in supply, is being distributed through parallel channels by political and film personalities.

The Bench was informed by the State on Wednesday that a show cause notice was issued to M/s Zeeshan Siddiqui and Sood Charity Foundation, two such celebrity organisations, but no response was received.

The Bench, however, not impressed by the State and the Central governments’ response on the directions passed by the Court.

Advocate Rajesh Inamdar, appearing for the petitioners in the case, submitted that the notice was sent only for the purpose of Remdesivir when the issue concerned distribution of all kinds of COVID drugs including the ones used for Mucormycosis (Black Fungus disease).

He remarked that these medicines were still being distributed by celebrities as if “they are running a pharmacy”.

The Court agreed with Inamdar’s submissions, noting that there seemed to be no reference to the Court’s order or the fact that the Court was expecting a statement from the celebrities.

The Court warned that if by the next hearing, the State does not seem serious about compliance with the directions of the Court, it will be compelled to seek the presence for Chief Secretary of the State.

The Court also asked the Central government about their report regarding compliance with the Court’s directions.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh submitted that the Centre has always given liberty to the State government to take action against black marketers and hoarders of drugs.

The Court, however, clarified that Centre was expected to get a report from the manufacturers, since manufacturers are under the Centre’s control.

The Court also sought to understand how celebrities were procuring suh large quantities of drugs.

“Allocation is by Centre, the collection of drugs is by state. Where is the window of collection by these personalities,” it asked.

The Bench opined that illegal method of procuring drugs would defeat the purpose of allocation orders by the Centre, the benefits which State could give to their citizens through their distribution and the requirement of needy citizens. The Court, therefore, granted time to government authorities till May 25 to comply with the directions of the Court.

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