'Do something without waiting for court orders': Delhi HC asks Centre, AAP govt to prevent hoarding of COVID-19 medicine
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing a PIL seeking directions to them to declare medicines and medical equipment meant for COVID treatment as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act
The Delhi High Court on Monday ordered the Centre and Delhi government to "do something without waiting for orders from the court" to prevent black marketing and hoarding of medicine and medical equipment like oxygen concentrators.
The court observed that if something has to be done, "do it without waiting for orders from the court".
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing a PIL seeking directions to them to declare medicines and medical equipment meant for COVID treatment as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act.
"All such persons who are indulging in the acts of profiteering cannot be spared therefore they have to be dealt with by an iron hand by awarding severest punishment. The act of the accused persons involved in this conspiracy amongst humanity is not only criminal but it is also immoral and deprecable as they are in fact depriving the patients their access to treatment for COVID-19 ," the petition argued, reports Bar&Bench.
The court issued notice to the Union Health Ministry and the Delhi government, represented by additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal, on the plea which has also sought setting up of fast track courts to deal exclusively with cases of black marketing and hoarding of medicines and equipment.
The petition by Delhi resident Manisha Chauhan has also sought the appointment of special public prosecutors for dealing with such cases before the special fast-track courts.
Advocates Sanjeev Sagar and Nazia Parveen, appearing for Chauhan, told the court that in the absence of a notification declaring medicines and equipment meant for COVID as essential commodities, these are being hoarded and black marketed.
You don't seem to have issued a notification under Section 3 of Essential Commodities Act (for oxygen concentrators): Court to Mehra
Adv Sanjeev Sagar says notification has to come from Centre.
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) May 10, 2021
They also told the bench that in the absence of any such notification, people hoarding or black marketing such items are trying to claim the benefit of it and the subordinate courts appear to be unaware of the high court's orders on this issue.
The petition has also sought initiation of contempt action against those persons who are engaging in black marketing and hoarding of medicines and equipment meant for COVID treatment in violation of the high court's direction against such practice.
During the hearing, the Centre told the bench that the suggestion to fix the MRP of the equipment was a good suggestion as it would prevent the dumping of spurious imports on Indian ports and it would not discourage genuine importers.
It said it was looking into the issue.
The court, during the hearing, suggested that some incentives in the form of a certain percentage of returns can be given to the importers at the time of fixing the price of the equipment and medicines.
It also said that if there is a free flow of the imported goods, then the market forces and competition would determine the prices if there was no caterlization.
It said the government should also examine whether it can issue any notification to prevent hoarding and black marketing of the imported items.
To this, the Centre said that while an MRP can be fixed for the sale of these imported goods, no timeline as such can be fixed for selling them.
It also said that due to exemption from customs duties on COVID-related equipment and medicines, a lot of people, including individuals, are importing them.
HC directs Centre to file details of all beds it provided
Hospitals in the National Capital are allegedly following a "VIP culture" of allocating beds and therefore, there is a need for a centralised and transparent system to help COVID-19 patients locate a bed, a PIL urged the Delhi High Court on Monday.
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its stand by 21 May on the plea which has contended that allocation of beds cannot be unregulated.
The petition by Delhi resident Manjit Singh, who works in the hospitality industry, has said that in the present situation of health emergency, where demand for beds is more than its supply, "there should be some mechanism to ensure that allocation of beds to COVID-19 patients in the hospitals across the city is not arbitrary and unreasonable".
Senior advocate Vivek Sood, appearing for Singh, told the court that people cannot be jostling outside hospitals for beds and therefore there has to be a system where people in the waitlist can be informed when a bed becomes vacant and then according to their turn on the list it can be allocated to someone.
The court said it agreed that there should be transparency and that people should get the beds on a first-come-first-serve basis, but the situation on the ground was "desperate" owing to an "overwhelming rush" at the hospitals.
The court also directed the Centre to file details of all 4,091 beds allegedly provided by it, along with a with break up of regular, ICU, non-ICU, oxygen, and ventilator beds.
The court says that 1200 isolation beds should not be considered hospital beds. "The steps taken to augment beds for COVID patients should also be listed. We'll take this on Thursday," LiveLaw quotes the court as saying.
Court: Let the Central govt come back on this by day after tomorrow.
Mehra: They can come back but with more beds allocated.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) May 10, 2021
Senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, said that while it may not be feasible to bring under a centralised system the existing number of beds in the hospitals, the new beds which are expected to come in soon may be allocated via a centralised system.
He said that the petitioner was seeking replication of the Bombay model where the majority of the beds were taken over by the government and were allocated by it.
The court, thereafter, asked senior advocate Rahul Mehra and additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal, appearing for the Delhi government, to look into the issue and file a reply.
HC asks Delhi govt if AAP MLA got oxygen from city refillers
While hearing another plea, the court asked the Delhi government whether AAP MLA Imran Hussain was supplied any oxygen through refillers in the National Capital who were given the gas for individuals in-home care, hospitals, and ambulances.
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli also asked the MLA to show documents that he procured the oxygen from Faridabad, Haryana, as claimed by him and not from the gas allocated for Delhi.
The court was hearing an application alleging that Hussain has been hoarding oxygen cylinders and making “arbitrary distribution”. Last Friday, the court had issued a notice to Hussain and asked him to remain present, reports Indian Express.
The directions came after Hussain, represented by senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, told the court that he procured the gas from outside Delhi, while the cylinders were rented from the national capital and he has the receipts to prove it.
#DelhiHighCourt directs @AamAadmiParty MLA Imran Hussain to submit documents to the Amicus on his claim that wrt oxygen cylinders being distributed by him, cylinders were from Delhi, oxygen from Faridabad. The Amicus is to place a report in this regard. NDOH: May 13.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) May 10, 2021
However, as the receipts were not on record, the court asked the MLA to show the documents in support of his claims and listed the matter for hearing on 13 May.
HC seeks response on plea to safeguard children orphaned by COVID
The Delhi High Court has also sought the response of the Centre, the Delhi government, and the Delhi Police on a plea filed seeking directions to safeguard the interest of the children who have lost their parents to COVID-19 and who do not have anyone else to take care of them and face the risk of being trafficked, reports LiveLaw.
A bench led by Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh has sought the response of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare, GNCTD, and Delhi Police and has listed the matter for further hearing on 4 June.
The petition, moved by Jitender Gupta, practising lawyer of Delhi prays that the Interim custody of such children is granted to their relatives or to child care homes while also exploring options for legal adoptions after duly scrutinizing all those who have expressed interest to adopt such children.
Further, the plea states that considering the urgency of the situation due to the complete collapse of health care infrastructure in the National Capital resulting in loss of hundreds of lives on a daily basis.
With inputs from PTI
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