The Delhi High Court Thursday took strong exception to target and prosecute leaders of a particular political party who as good samaritans arranged oxygen for the patients when both the Centre and Delhi government failed to provide sufficient medical oxygen to people of the national capital during the second wave of COVID-19.
It was very unfortunate that a "human tragedy" has been used for "political capital," observed the high court while coming down heavily on the Delhi''s drug control department for launching prosecution against AAP MLA Praveen Kumar for procuring oxygen cylinders and distributing it to the COVID-19 patients.
Terming the action as consciously targeting leaders of a particular political party and witch hunting, a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said if the drug controller chooses to proceed against one person for procuring and distributing medical oxygen, it shall also prosecute all the gurdwaras, temples, churches, social organisations and other people who had procured and distributed oxygen during the second wave of COVID-19.
"We will not allow this political capital. Then you proceed against all the gurdwaras, temples, churches and social organizations. Why pick only one person? The state, both the Delhi government and Union of India, failed in providing sufficient medical oxygen to the people of Delhi. There were some good samartians who provided oxygen. You can''t prosecute them," the bench said.
The bench granted time to the drug controller to clear its stand on whether it wishes to prosecute all such persons who had procured or distributed medical oxygen for free to the needy COVID-19 patients and listed the matter for further hearing on August 5.
The high court referred to its previous order in which it was observed that the issue of medical oxygen is technical and different from the issue of hoarding COVID-19 medicines.
"Had we not said that you will not proceed against oxygen? If this is the way you are going to proceed, then you proceed against half of Delhi and also proceed against all the gurdwaras. How can you take such a hyper technical view?," the bench said, adding that the purpose is to help the society without causing any damage to others.
The high court distinguished this case with that of cricketer-turned-politician and BJP leader Gautam Gambhir who had procured, stocked and distributed huge quantity of fabiflu medicine to COVID-19 patients.
"The reason for picking Gambhir's case was that he was very irresponsibly holding the COVID-19 medicines in huge quantity. He may have had the best of intentions but this is not allowed," it said.
The high court was informed by the counsel for drug controller that prosecution has been launched against Gautam Gambhir Foundation, and AAP MLA Imran Hussain Kumar for alleged violations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and a trial court had on July 28 taken cognisance of the issue and issued summons to them for August 26.
Member of Parliament Gautam Gambhir is one of the trustees of the foundation.
Senior advocate Kailash Vasudev, representing Mr Gambhir, urged the high court to grant him a hearing as he wished to make certain clarifications and also requested the high court to clarify in its order that the adverse observations made against him here shall not be used against him 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 shall not come in the way of proceedings in the trial court.
The high court was hearing a PIL seeking lodging of an FIR on the allegations that politicians are able to procure in huge quantities and distribute COVID-19 medicines even as patients were running from pillar to post to get them.
An application was also filed in the pending petition making allegations against Mr Kumar.
During the hearing, when advocate Viraj Gupta, appearing for petitioner Deepak Singh, contended that the Delhi Police and drug controller have given a wrong report and have misled the court, the bench warned him of imposing cost and said he has filed a public interest litigation and shall not make it a publicity interest litigation.
Earlier, the Delhi drug controller had told the high court that Gambhir Foundation was found guilty of unauthorised stocking, procuring and distributing fabiflu medicine to COVID-19 patients.
The high court had deprecated the manner in which a huge quantity of the drug was procured and said genuine patients who needed the medicine at that particular time could not get it as the bulk stock was taken away by Mr Gambhir.
AAP MLA Kumar has also been found guilty for similar offences under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and action will also be taken against him, the court was informed.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)