The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed the proceedings before a local court here against BJP leader Gautam Gambhir, his foundation and other connected parties in a case related to the alleged illegal stocking and distribution of COVID-19 drugs.
The court asked the Drugs Control Department of Delhi to respond to the petition by Gautam Gambhir foundation, Mr. Gambhir and his family members who are accused in the case before December 8 — the next date of hearing.
During second wave
The Drug Control Department had earlier informed the High Court that the Gautam Gambhir Foundation has been found guilty of unauthorisedly stocking, procuring and distributing Fabiflu medicine to COVID-19 patients, when they were in short supply in the capital during the second wave of the pandemic.
The Department has filed a complaint against Mr. Gambhir — Member of Parliament from East Delhi —, his foundation, its CEO Aprajita Singh, his mother and wife, Seema Gambhir and Natasha Gambhir, respectively — who are both trustees in the foundation.
'Not sold for a price'
Advocate A.N.S. Nadkarni, representing Mr. Gambhir and others, submitted that no case was made out against his clients as the foundation was distributing free COVID-19 medicines through a medical camp and that it was an admitted fact that such medicines were not being "sold for a price".
The Department's lawyer, however, said a license to deal in such medicines was necessary and the law did not distinguish between sale and distribution. The petition stated that carrying out a charitable activity during an unprecedented catastrophe did not require any licenses and initiating criminal proceedings for such acts would be a gross miscarriage of justice.
They clarified that neither Mr. Gambhir nor any of the other trustees had any intention to violate the law and that "it was the compelling circumstances of the deadly pandemic compounded by mass deprivation and inability to afford medicines that compelled the petitioners to take this humanitarian step of organising a medical camp, in the face of the pandemic, to help the needy".
The petition claimed that the procurement of medicines made by the foundation, under medical supervision and against documented invoices, did not obstruct the supply chain of the medicine in any manner. "The fact that almost 2,400 strips of the total approximately 2,600 stripes were provided to the participants of the camp within the span of 16 days, is in no uncertain terms indicative of the fact that the medicines were indeed given almost immediately after procurement," the plea said.
The court had earlier queried how Mr. Gambhir was able to buy COVID-19 drugs in bulk amid shortages.
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