Mumbai: The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Wednesday pulled up the Union government for shirking its responsibility and ordered it to call for a detailed sales report from all the seven manufacturing companies that make Remdesivir, so as to see how certain celebrities and politicians are getting the stock of the essential drugs. The bench also slammed the Maharashtra government for only issuing show cause notices to a popular actor and a city-based politician, asking them their stand on from where do they get the supplies of Remdesivir.
"We had asked you (state) to look into this matter on May 13 and today is May 19, all you did is issued show cause notice. In fact by this time you should have had recorded their statements," Justice Kulkarni told the state counsel Akshay Shinde. The bench noted that these celebrities do not have any license to supply the drug, which at present can only be purchased by state authorities alone. "Who is going to take the responsibility that these celebs are having proper drug? Why only show cause notice? We aren't impressed by this," the judges said.
During the hearing, advocate Rajesh Inamdar told the bench that the notices issued are in most casual manner. "These celebs are distributing Remdesivir as if they are pharmacists. Not only Remdesivir they are also distributing drug used to treat Black Fungus, an after effect of Covid," Inamdar submitted.
Having perused the notices in question that were issued on May 14 and granted four days time to the celebs to respond, Justice Kulkarni said these are "one of the most casual show cause notices." Chief Justice Datta, said, "Mr Shinde if on next hearing we find you aren't serious in complying with our orders, we will be compelled to call the chief secretary. This is a really serious issue."
The bench then turned to additional solicitor general Anil Singh asking him the stand of Union government on this issue. But found that the ASG hasn't filed any affidavit in the matter and has left it on the state to respond. "Why has Union shirked the responsibility saying distribution of Remdesivir is done by states," the chief justice questioned.
Justice Kulkarni further said that the court is concerned of whose responsibility it is to distribute the vials but only that the same shouldn't be sold to any private person. The ASG made an attempt to convince the bench saying that the Prime Minister himself has urged states to ensure there is no black-marketing of this drug. "We are very serious about this issue," he said.
At this, the chief justice replied, "If you (Union) are so much serious, the only thing you could have done is seek a sales report from manufacturers and we will get to know from where these people are getting the drug. Hope you are aware that the manufacturers are very much in your control."
"We are sorry but we didn't expect such stand from the Union," CJ Datta added.
Meanwhile, Justice Kulkarni highlighted the fact that all the states are struggling to get Remdesivir. "Thus, we want to know how these celebrities ate getting it? What is the authenticity of these drug? Who will cross check whether they have purchased from legal dealer?" Justice Kulkarni said.
To this, ASG Singh replied that these celebs might be bringing the stock from other states.
"We are already seeing there is a shortage of this drug in all states. Don't make such a submission," the judge told Singh.
"We are only concerned of our citizens. There cannot be a mileage of any popularity if needy patient isn't getting the drug. These people (celebs) must understand that the drug is already scarce and must be given to the needy," Justice Kulkarni observed.
Matter would be next heard on Tuesday.