MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday raised objection over BJP Lok Sabha MP Sujay Vikhe Patil allegedly procuring Remdesivir from New Delhi surreptitiously and unofficially and noted the anti-COVID-19 drug is supposed to be distributed equally among needy patients.
The Aurangabad bench of the HC said while the action of Vikhe Patil, the MP from Ahmednagar in western Maharashtra, might have saved the lives of poor and needy patients, the path he chose was wrong and "this cannot be a Robinhood situation".
The court said the entire issue needs to be investigated but it was refraining from doing so at this stage though it pulled up the Ahmednagar district collector for "giving a clean chit" to the Member of Parliament.
"A wrong path followed is ultimately termed as impropriety. Remdesivir injections are supposed to be used and distributed equally among all and not like this, said a division bench headed by Justice Ravindra Ghuge. We only want to know how he (Vikhe Patil) procured the vials? How did this man procure the Remdesivir vials surreptitiously and unofficially? Justice Ghuge asked.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by four agriculturists seeking criminal action against Vikhe Patil for alleged unauthorised procurement of 10,000 Remdesivir injections from Delhi and its distribution in Ahmednagar.
The anti-viral drug, widely used to treat critical coronavirus patients, is in high demand nationwide after the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
The court, in its order, noted that the Lok Sabha MP had uploaded video recordings and photographs on his social media account showing him in a charted flight and landing at the Shirdi airport and unloading boxes of Remdesivir.
The HC directed the state's Principal Secretary (Home) to provide details of landing and take-off of all private and chartered flights from the Shirdi airport in Ahmednagar district from April 10 to April 25.
The bench also ordered that CCTV footage of the airport, including the cargo area, be preserved.
"We would not tolerate any excuse of any footage being lost or the details of the landing and take-off of private flights not available, the court said and posted the matter for further hearing on May 3. The court refused to accept arguments made by advocate V D Hon, who said he was appearing for a few patients who were given the Remdesivir injections procured by Vikhe Patil. We are sure lives were saved and the poor and needy benefitted by the actions of the MP. But this cannot be a Robinhood situation where you steal from one group and distribute among another group," the court observed.
The HC said it has been informed that 300 Remdesivir injections were handed over to the Ahmednagar district hospital, while an undisclosed number of vials was given to the Sai Baba trust-run hospital in Shirdi.
The court said the issue needs to be investigated but said it was refraining from doing so at this stage.
Though we are at this stage refraining from forming any final opinion and ordering investigation, we are of the prima facie view that the administration is trying to protect the MP, the court said.
The bench was irked when it was informed by the petitioners advocate, Pradnya Talekar, that on Wednesday Ahmednagar Collector Rajendra Bhosale told the local press that the district hospital had asked Vikhe Patil to procure 1,700 vials of the medicine.
There seems to be some cover up operation.
Why is the collector going to the press and giving a clean chit to the MP? This officer (Collector) should be immediately transferred out of Ahmednagar.
"The collectors duty is towards the citizens or the MP?" Justice Ghuge asked.
Public prosecutor D R Kale submitted to the court a note prepared by the collector on the issue.
As per the note, the 1,700 vials of Remdesivir procured by the district government hospital from Vikhe Patil came from a medical firm in Pune and not Delhi.
The court noted that at this stage it was refraining from forming any final opinion and permitted the collector to file an affidavit clarifying his stand.
The bench noted that if the local police and administration cannot be trusted with an inquiry, the court would consider directing the CBI or the state CID to investigate the matter.