Bombay HC’s Nagpur Bench registers suo motu criminal case against Remdesivir black marketing

The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court on April 29, registered a suo motu criminal case against black -marketing of the drug, Remdesivir used to treat COVID-19 patients.

The case was registered based on a news paper report in daily Hitavada (CityLine) dated April 28, 2021 published a news of arrest of 32 persons including a Doctor for black marketing of Remdesivir Injections.

The Division Bench of Justices Z.A. Haq and Amit B. Borkar  observed that the newspaper report notes that due to rise in demand of Remdesivir injections, many persons related to the hospitals are indulged in black marketing of life saving drug. The second wave of Covid-19 situations is worsening day-by-day in the country and also in the Vidarbha region. The situation appears to be worst in Nagpur District.

“Due to the sudden surge of Covid-19 cases, neither the manufacturers of the medicines nor the authorities entrusted with the work of distribution of medicines were prepared for such situation resulting into unscrupulous people taking advantage of such situation. The demand supply ratio of the Remdesivir Injection, which is a life saving drug is exponentially inverse. Due to the huge demand and lack of supply of Remdesivir Injections, the people in urgent need and in particular the lower strata of society are unable to get the life saving drug at market price”, the Court said.

“Though the Government and concerned Authorities are taking steps to procure Remdesivir Injections, it appears that the situation is worsening day-by-day. The concerned Authorities are trying their best to regulate the supply of Remdesivir Injections by issuing policy directives to make available Remdesivir Injections”, the Court observed.

The Court stated that the during such crisis, certain persons involved in supply of the medicines or having access to medicines are trying to exploit the needy patients by selling such medicines at astronomical prices.

Since the lives of the needy patients are at stake, the relatives of such patients are ready to pay any amount to save the lives of their loved ones. Since the buyers at such astronomical price are concerned only about the lives of their loved ones, such cases are seldomly reported to the Law Enforcement Agency.

The Court held that,

“It is therefore necessary to initiate measures to deter such unscrupulous persons from indulging in black marketing of life saving drug like Remdesivir Injection. Therefore we appreciate the initiative of the Police in taking action in the matter”.

However, the time consumed for investigation of offences and disposal of the criminal trials are not dissuading such people from indulging in such activities. In such unprecedented time of crisis, it is necessary to take certain unprecedented measures to deter such unscrupulous people from indulging in black marketing of life saving drug.

Advocate SP Bhandarkar, the Amicus Curiae in the Suo Motu PIL in relation to the COVID management was appointed Amicus in the present criminal case too.

The Court noted that, 

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“In such crisis situation, the Courts cannot be mute spectator and cannot turn Nelson’s eye to such incidents which are reported in the newspaper. To send strong signals to people who may indulge in black marketing of life saving drug, it is necessary that the investigation and trial of people accused of black marketing of life saving drug should be taken to conclusion and one of the effective way is to ensure that the trial is completed in swift manne”.

The case will be heard again on May 4, 2021.
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