Vijayawada: Despite a Supreme Court direction to allow only drugs control authorities to deal with cognisable offences like diversion of certain drugs for Covid and black fungus cure, as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the vigilance and enforcement and the police along with drugs control administration (DCA) are on a spree of booking cases even as their action may fail to stand legal scrutiny.
The apex court recently ruled that the police does not have power to make arrests under the Chapter IV of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, which deals with manufacture, sale and distribution of drugs and cosmetics. The court directed drugs inspectors to carry out the arrest as provided in Section 58 of CrPC and report to their superior officers.
The Act also specifies the powers of drugs inspectors in Chapter IV Section 22 (D), allowing them to exercise such other powers as may be necessary for carrying out the purpose of this chapter or any rules made under. However, in the wake of rampant diversion of vials like remdesivir which was sold even at nearly 80,000 per vial against the government-fixed price of `3,940 for a certain manufacturer, tocilizumab at about Rs 5-6 lakh a vial against the fixed price at `46,000 and amphotericin B at ` 60,000-`70,000 a vial against the fixed price of `6,248 a vial, meant for cure for Covid and black fungus respectively, teams of officials from vigilance and enforcement, DCA and health formed flying squads in districts and carried out raids and booked cases.
Sources in the DCA say that cases are being registered under Sections like 18 (a), (b),(c) of DCA, 1940, and also under relevant sections including 188 of IPC, Disaster Management Act, 2005, under Sections 51 (b), 53, Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and others, during raids on hospitals and black marketeers. They say that booking of cases under sections of various laws will not serve the purpose as they may fail to stand legal scrutiny in a majority number of cases.
They say that the drugs inspectors are even being forced to lodge complaints with the police even under IPC sections and also beyond their territorial jurisdiction. For instance, as a drugs inspector is allotted for district-level flying squad, he or she is being asked to file cases with police all over the district and in case, the court asks the jurisdiction of the drugs inspector during the trial for filing cases, the official will face trouble from the court and the case may also fail to stand despite the grave nature of the crime.
On an average, five to 10 cases of diversion of vials to black market are registered in each district and the number may be more in districts like Krishna, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari and others as such practice has been rampant. The state vigilance and enforcement authorities have booked nearly 70 hospitals in the state for a series of offences including misappropriation, overcharging and other violations dealing with vials and other offences like overcharging the patients for Covid care.
Appreciating the efforts to curb such menace in a broader perspective, a section of DCA officials expressed dismay over lack of seriousness in dealing with the situation as they should be confined to book cases under their acts and take the culprits to task as per norms. They are also critical of the police for just serving notices to the accused under section 41 of CrPC instead of arresting them.
A senior official from the drugs department said, “Though filing of cases under a mix of laws may serve as a deterrent to curb diversion of injections for Covid and black fungus care, they may not stand legal scrutiny and defeat the very purpose of booking cases unless apex court order is complied with in toto. It is good to allow us to confine filing cases only under DCA norms for such offences to stand trial in the court of law.”...