AHMEDABAD: A BJP MLA has told the Gujarat High Court Remdesivir vials were made available to needy patients from the party office in Surat on grounds of “compassion and humanity” to “save a number of lives” as he defended himself against charges of hoarding and illegally distributing the antiviral drug at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 in April.
The MLA, Harsh Sanghavi, told the HC on Tuesday that Remdesivir injections were made available by BJP leaders to 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 in treating serious COVID-19 patients and its shortage was reported in April and May when the second wave of the pandemic was on its peak.
He told a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav that allegations made by Gujarat Congress leader Paresh Dhanani against him make his PIL on the issue look like a “political interest” litigation.
The charges of hoarding and illegal distribution of the COVID-19 drug are “absolutely false, frivolous, baseless and made without verifying the correct facts,” the ruling party legislator said.
Sanghavi said a total of 2,506 vials of the injection made available to needy persons in Surat and Navsari were procured from a distributor, which supplied the medicine to medical stores and a hospital in Surat.
The injections, procured on payments made on bills, were made available to patients after proper verification of 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 authorized places like the hospital and medical stores,” 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 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.
Dhanani had filed the PIL in the HC seeking an independent inquiry against Sanghavi as well as 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, said the PIL.
Paatil is yet to file his affidavit.
The court, during the hearing on 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 come up for further hearing on July 6.