- The top court, said Gautam Gambhir, could approach the Delhi High Court
- An individual cannot distribute medicines, the top court said
- Mr Gambhir's lawyer withdrew his plea after these remarks
The Supreme Court on Monday said it would not stop the prosecution of BJP MP Gautam Gambhir - in connection with politicians hoarding medicines during the second wave of Covid cases - noting it "cannot allow a group (to) distribute medicines while people run helter-skelter..."
The court, however, said Mr Gambhir, an ex-cricketer who entered politics ahead of the 2019 election, could approach the Delhi High Court for relief since that court had not yet passed it order.
"We cannot stop it. You proceed your remedy before the High Court," a two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said.
"Cannot allow a trust, or group of people, to distribute medicines, while people run helter-skelter for drugs. An individual cannot distribute medicines... Then everybody will procure and distribute for their own purpose," the court added.
Mr Gambhir's lawyer withdrew his plea after these remarks.
The ex-cricketer had filed a plea against the observations of the Delhi High Court on this matter.
In May the High Court came down heavily on the drug controller for allowing Mr Gambhir to procure large quantities of Fabiflu, which had been indicated for use in some COVID-19 cases.
An irked court said the tendency to take advantage of a situation, such as the devastating tragedy wrought by the second wave of the pandemic, to appear as saviours had to be denounced.
"You can't take us for a ride. If you think we are so gullible, so naive, we are not. You better do your job. If you can't do your job tell us... we will have you suspended and let someone else do your job," a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh had said.
AAP MLA Praveen 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.
Mr Gambhir's lawyer, Kailash Vasudev, told the court today that his client had carried out "public service" and is now facing the consequences. The court, however, was unconvinced.
"We had our eye on the ground to see what was happening... People running helter-skelter... that is not on and we cannot allow that," Justice Chandrachud said.
"You (Gautam Gambhir) are in public life and you have to go through the process. Individuals cannot distribute medicines... Then everybody will procure and distribute," Justice Shah said.
Mr Vasudev persisted for a while, saying the observations of the High Court were such that his client may never get over it, and requested the Supreme Court to stop any prosecution.
The Supreme Court refused to do so.
In late April Mr Gambhir had offered Fabiflu for free at his constituency in Delhi. This was at the height of the second Covid wave, during which key drugs like Fabiflu were in short supply in hospitals.
"If a few 100 strips of tablets obtained from a distributor are being given for free, then, can it be called hoarding? Is my obtaining a few strips of Fabiflu causing the shortage? You can call me wrong but I'll do everything to save lives of people," he told ANI in June.
With input from ANI, PTI