Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to scrutinise the role that local Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique and actor Sonu Sood played in procurement and supply of anti-COVID drugs to citizens, following their SOS calls and appeals on social media.
The high court also observed that "these people (celebrities) projected themselves as some kind of messiahs without verifying if the drugs were spurious or if the supply was legal".
A bench of Justices S P Deshmukh and G S Kulkarni issued the direction to the Maharashtra government after state Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the HC that it had registered a criminal case at the Mazgaon metropolitan court against a charitable trust, BDR Foundation, and its trustees for supplying anti-COVID drug Remdesivir to Siddique even though the trust did not have requisite licence.
Kumbhakoni said that Siddique had been merely diverting the drug to citizens, who had approached him, so no action had been taken against him yet.
He further said that Sonu Sood had received the drugs from several pharmacies located inside the private Lifeline Care Hospital in Goregaon. Pharma company Cipla had supplied Remdesivir to these pharmacies and inquiry into it was still going on, Kumbhakoni said.
He was responding to previous orders of the high court passed while hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) on several issues related to the management of drugs and resources required to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The HC had directed the state government and the Centre to probe how celebrities and politicians had managed to procure and distribute anti-coronavirus drugs to the public when the supply of the same was scarce and was supposed to be allocated to states by the Union government.
On Wednesday, the HC asked if initiating action against the charitable trust was adequate and should the state not look further into the roles played by Siddique, Sood, and any other celebrities concerned?
"We would expect the state government to scrutinise their actions. We want you to very seriously examine their roles," the high court said.
"Since both were dealing directly with the public, was it possible for the public to ascertain the quality or source of these drugs?" it said.
The HC referred to a news story published on Wednesday, which said that a private housing society in the city had said that it had probably been cheated and provided spurious anti-COVID-19 vaccines by those who had carried out a vaccination drive for its residents.
"We don't want any such incidents. Such things should not happen because of the existence of a parallel system. These are situations with which we are not too happy," the high court said.
"These people (celebrities) projected themselves as some kind of messiahs without verifying if the drugs were spurious or if the supply was legal. In both these cases, we expect the State Govt to scrutinise their actions," the HC said.
The high court will next hear the plea further on June 25.