In a significant move, the Jharkhand High Court last week directed the State's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to keep strict vigil in black marketing of medicines and charging extra rate for Beds in hospitals, both in private as well as government.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad was hearing suo moto proceedings initiated to take the stock of the State Government's preparedness to deal with COVID emergency.
The bench issued this order after observing that the district and police administration failed to discharge their duties to put check upon the black marketing of life-saving drugs like Remdesivir Injection, etc.
Importantly, coming down heavily on the Drug Controller (for the State of Jharkhand) for her failure to discharge her duties and to put a check on black marketing of life-saving drugs, the Jharkhand High Court had recently called it 'unfortunate' that she sought exemption from personal appearance before the Court.
Submissions of the Director (Drugs)/State Government
- Necessary steps are being taken to increase the supply of Favipiravir Tablets and department is monitoring supply and allocation of Remdesivir, Favipiravir and other common drugs used for Covid-19 patients.
- The state is taking necessary steps to put a check upon the black marketing of these medicines
- A monitoring committee has been formed under the Joint Director (Drugs) comprising of three Drug Inspectors for monitoring of the stock availability and smooth distribution of Favipiravir tablets and other commonly used drugs for Covid-19.
- State Government has formed a Task Force headed by the Director (Industries) where the Director (Drugs) is also made a member secretary for ensuring the increased production, distribution, and supply of medical oxygen to all ICU Beds and Oxygen Beds for Covid-19 patients.
- The supply of Favipiravir Tablets is made to the prominent pharmacy stores in every district of the State like at places where the general public finds it easier to locate and reach.
At the outset, the Court expressed concerns about the news clip telecast, wherein a person was seen getting Rs.1,10,000/- by selling "Remdesivir" Injection through black marketing.
In the video, the black marketeer has disclosed, that he used to give Rs.3,000/- to the Drug Inspector, Rs.10,000/- to the officers of the National Health Mission and likewise money was being transmitted at other levels to procure the said injection to sell out in the open market by black marketing.
Further, the Court asked the State Government that when a system had been adopted by the Drugs department to supply Remdesivir Injection strictly to the hospitals on the basis of the on-line requisition then how the black marketeer got the said injection to sell it in the open market?
"…Only conclusion to be reached by this Court is that there are serious lapses in the so-called process evolved by the Drug Control Department of the State of Jharkhand," added the Court.
Importantly, the Court sternly remarked,
"The question is what the district administration and police administration is doing if such thing is happening which clearly suggest that the district and police administration have failed to discharge their duties."
The Court also remarked that when the news channel can apprehend a black marketeer through sting operation then why it cannot be done by the district and police administration?
This Court deemed it fit and proper to issue following directions:
- Senior Superintendent of Police/Investigating Agency is directed to produce the up-to-date progress of the investigation in the sealed cover before this Court on the next date of hearing along with the confessional statement, if any, of the apprehended person(s).
- The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the State has been directed to take up the matter in order to keep strict vigil in black marketing of medicines and charging extra rate for Beds in hospitals both in private as well as government and to take appropriate legal action in accordance with law against those involved in such activities.
- The Deputy Commissioner, Senior Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of Police of different districts are directed to extend full co-operation and co-ordination to the CID personnel in combating the situation of black marketing.
- As per the requisition made to the Central Government to meet the supply and demand of medicines of Covid-19 as per the requisition made on 15.04.2021 the Central Government is directed to look into the matter and expedite it.
- The concerned authorities like the Director (Industries) and other officers related to managing hospitals like that Deputy Commissioner of the districts, the Director (Drugs), Joint Director (Drug Controller) and other related officers are directed to work in coordination in order to meet out the situation arising due to surge in Pandemic covid-19.
- The authorities are directed to make all sincere endeavors to meet out the supply and demand of medicines for the patients in hospitals and in home isolation in the entire district of the State as also to balance the supply of oxygen both in hospitals as also for the persons getting treatment in home isolation across the State.
- The Deputy Commissioner of every district are directed to monitor the situation along with the Civil Surgeon of the concerned districts.
Lastly, the Director (Drugs) assured the Court that all steps would be taken to allow the medical shops to sell out the medicines like Favipiravir or Fluguard on the basis of the prescription made by the medical practitioner by taking steps to avoid the illegal sale of such medicines in order to avoid hoarding of these medicines.
The matter has been now posted for further hearing on May 6.