The Delhi High Court on Friday questioned how the Centre and various government departments were unaware of the “untapped potential” of drug manufacturing plants in India, with capabilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines, when foreign firms have been able to locate them.
“That is what is troubling us,” a Bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Najmi Waziri remarked.
“You [Centre] were asking for waiver of patents all over the world. We have good products in India. These products could have been manufactured in each and every State,” the High Court said, referring to Panacea Biotec’s plant in Himachal Pradesh.
“In Himachal, if you have produced this, the entire State could have been vaccinated in three weeks. Even people from Russia are able to locate it, and we are unable to locate them. That is what is troubling us,” the court remarked.
The court also queried why the Centre did not engage with local drug manufacturers to produce the vaccine developed by an Indian manufacturer. “There is an Indian company which has developed its own vaccine. If other manufacturers were told way back last year, there would be crores of vaccines all over the country by now,” the court remarked, adding, “Why are you not thinking on those lines?”
Seeks arbitral award
The court’s observations came while hearing a plea of Panacea Biotec, which has sought the release of an arbitral award, passed in its favour and against the Centre, saying it needs funds at the earliest in the larger interest of humanity as it has already manufactured trial batches of COVID vaccine Sputnik V in collaboration with Russian Direct Investment Fund and wanted to scale it up.
The court directed the Centre to release the arbitral award along with interest to Panacea Biotec subject to the condition that the company obtains the requisite permission to manufacture the vaccine.
“To save a few human lives…one has to look at the big picture,”the court said.
This article was originally published on The Hindu