The Bombay High Court on Wednesday, May 19, expressed concern over the exception made to the politicians and celebrities for procuring COVID-19 medicines, especially vials of Remdesivir injection, medical oxygen and other relief materials for distribution, instead of the drugs being directly available to ordinary citizens and needy patients.
The court questioned the availability of medicines to personalities, while the state continues to reel under a shortage of supply.
Taking cognisance of the issue, a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked the state government to file affidavits explaining the same. Questing the inaction by the government on the issue, the bench said the practice of procurement and distribution needed to stop.
Last week, the bench had asked for the details from Maharashtra and the central government, who faced flak during the hearing for non-compliance of previous orders, reported Bar and Bench.
"We are concerned about the lives of our citizens. There cannot be any mileage, popularity or any other kind of mileage from this. We are deeply pained if needy patients are being deprived of it. This is a sorry state of affairs," the bench while going through the notes submitted by the state government.
The government said they had issued show-cause notices to Mumbai Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique and the Sood Charity Foundation, an NGO run by actor Sonu Sood, and are awaiting replies.
Unimpressed by the government's response, the bench said they had recorded statements by some celebrities of not having any licence.
In the previous hearing, Advocate Rajesh Imamdar, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, told the bench that the notice was sent only concerning the Remdesivir injection out of the other drugs being distributed, including the ones used for Mucormycosis (Black Fungus disease).
'They Are Running A Pharmacy'
These medicines were being distributed by celebrities as if "they are running a pharmacy", Imamdar added.
The citizens approached the celebrities and politicians through Twitter after they failed to get medicines. He further showed several tweets of Sood and Siddiqui distributing Remdesivir vials within hours of requests, commenting that this was just the gist.
Noting Imamdar's submissions, the court warned that if the state does not comply with the given directions, it will be compelled to seek the presence of the Chief Secretary of the State.
Representing the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh said that the government would file the report on the issue. Singh said it was not done earlier, as the procurement and distribution of the medicines were the state's prerogative, and the Centre merely allocated resources to states on the latter's demand, the media reported.
"Allocation is by Union; the collection is by State, where is the window of collection by these personalities? That is our anxiety," the bench asked and raised concerns over the quality of the drugs.
The Court has given the Centre and the state a week to file a report.