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SC medicine notice to Tripura

New Delhi/Agartala, March 3: A Tripura Congress spokesperson has moved the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the CPM-led state government’s procurement of “substandard” medicines from a company that he claims caused many patients’ deaths.

A bench headed by Justice A.K. Patnaik today sought responses from the Centre, Vardhaman Pharma, and the governments of Tripura and Himachal Pradesh, where the company is based.

“This is the first time a public interest litigation from Tripura against the state government has been filed in the Supreme Court. We will pursue the matter,” state leader of the Opposition Sudip Roy Barman told The Telegraph.

News of the court notices prompted chief minister Manik Sarkar and five cabinet colleagues to meet nine other CPM state secretariat members to discuss the matter. The talks continued for hours.

State CPM spokesperson Gautam Das said: “We cannot comment at this stage on the apex court’s order.”

The petition by state Congress spokesperson Ashok Kumar Sinha, a private medical practitioner, alleges that the Tripura government and the police have failed to act against the company and the officials responsible for issuing the contract.

Sinha has, however, not specified the number of alleged deaths caused by the medicines and the period during which they occurred.

The petition alleges that the Tripura government is trying to protect state health minister Tapan Chakraborty and IAS officers V. Satyanarayan and J.K. Sinha for their role in the matter.

Sinha says that Tripura’s health and family welfare department had imported about 50 drugs, formulations and injections from Vardhaman Pharma in March 2012. He alleges the company lacked a drug licence at the time, its licence having been cancelled in 2009.

During random checks by government inspectors between July and September last year, Sinha alleges, several drugs supplied by the company were found to be substandard. The state government then cancelled the order.

Yet, he says, the authorities lodged an FIR in Agartala only on November 4, and only after a public outcry.

Sinha has alleged the police have not yet acted against the company or the government officials, despite he himself having lodged another police complaint on November 16.

Opposition leader Roy Barman said the state drug control department had stated on a file on January 22 last year that the quality of the medicines was not up to the mark, and that the regional drug-testing laboratory in Guwahati had corroborated this on April 5. “The state government cancelled the supply order only in September, allowing the entire stock of substandard medicines to be administered to patients,” he said.