Vials of anti-viral drug Remdesivir were made available to the needy patients from the BJP’s office in Surat on grounds of “compassion and humanity” to “save a number of lives”, Gujarat BJP MLA Harsh Sanghavi told the High Court as he defended himself against charges of hoarding and illegally distributing the drug at the peak of the second wave of coronavirus in April.
Mr Sanghavi told the High Court on Tuesday that Remdesivir injections were made available by BJP leaders to the needy patients in Surat and Navsari in south Gujarat between April 10 and 12.
This was done with the “sole intention of compassion and humanity” as injections were “urgently required to save a number of lives”, he said in an affidavit submitted in the court.
Remdesivir is widely used to treat serious Covid patients and the drug’s shortage was reported in April and May when the second wave of the pandemic was at its peak.
Allegations made by Gujarat Congress leader and the Leader of Opposition in the state Paresh Dhanani against him make his Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the issue look like a “political interest” litigation, Mr Sanghavi told a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav.
The charges of hoarding and illegal distribution of the drug are “absolutely false, frivolous, baseless and made without verifying the correct facts,” the BJP legislator said.
Mr Sanghavi said 2,506 vials of the injection, made available to patients in nee in Surat and Navsari, were procured from a distributor who supplied the drug to medical stores and a hospital in Surat.
The injections, procured on payments made on bills, were given to patients after properly verifying documents at the BJP office in Surat, he said.
“There was no distribution, hoarding and dispensation of the injections by the deponent (the MLA), but the reality is that the deponent only facilitated the availability of the injections from authorised places like the hospital and medical stores,” Mr Sanghavi said.
Even if it is assumed to be distribution, he said, it was done in accordance with the procedure established by law, and was in no case an “illegal, irregular or unlawful” act.
Lok Sabha MP and Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil, who was also involved in the distribution of Remdesivir, is one of the respondents in the case.
In his reply before the court, the commissioner of the state’s food and drugs control administration said a probe is underway in the case but a preliminary inquiry conducted on a representation made by the Congress shows no violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, as alleged.
Congress leader Paresh Dhanani had filed the PIL in the High Court seeking an independent inquiry against Harsh Sanghavi as well as CR Paatil, for “illegal and unauthorised distribution of Remdesivir injections” from the BJP’s Surat office.
The Leader of Opposition had sought the court’s direction for an expert committee of “highly distinguished and neutral persons” to inquire into the incident in the context of the Pharmacy Act, 1984, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987.
The distribution was made when there was an acute shortage of Remdesivir throughout the country, the PIL read.
CR Paatil is yet to file his affidavit.
The court, while hearing the PIL on Tuesday, gave the state BJP president one more week to file his affidavit and made it clear that “no further time will be granted”.
The matter will be taken up for further hearing on July 6.