The Madras High Court on Friday looked for answers as to why the Central government is depending only on private manufactures to get COVID-19 vaccines in huge amounts when there are government-owned offices, like the Integrated Vaccine Complex at HLL Biotech Ltd (HBL), Chengalpattu, lying inactive.
The bench of justice MS Ramesh and B Pugalendhi was dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one A Veronica Mary, seeking directions to the Union of Indian, Tamil Nadu, and Bharat heavy electricals to undertake the maintenance procedures for the Oxygen plant in BHEL, Trichy.
Case of the petitioner
Two issues were raised by the petitioner. One was concerning using the Oxygen plants accessible in BHEL, Trichy, for the production of Oxygen to meet the current painful circumstance. Another was concerning using the services of HLL Biotech Ltd. (Legislature of India Enterprise under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Integrated Vaccines Complex (IVC), Chengalpattu, for the creation of vaccines.
The petitioner presented that BHEL, Trichy, is having the facilities of Oxygen production with three Oxygen plants, having a limit of 140 metric cubes per hour, at the same time, those plants are closed down since 2003. As per him, those units could be revived to fulfill the need for Oxygen for the COVID patients.
As to Biotech Ltd (HBL) Integrated Vaccines Complex (IVC), Chengalpattu, the Court noticed that it is a dedicated condition- of-art vaccine manufacturing unit, and was set up to deliver lifesaving and cost-effective antibodies basically to limit the demand-supply gap and to help the Government in the Universal Immunization program.
Further, taking note of that India is the World's biggest exporter of antibodies, the Court saw that presently, just two private Indian vaccine manufacture are in the field of creating vaccines for Covid i.e., Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech.
In this background the court stated,
‘That one thing is clear i.e., "that at present, the Government is securing COVID vaccines, specifically, COVAXIN from Bharat Biotech and COVISHIELD from Serum Institute of India, which are private undertakings, meaning thereby, the vaccines producing institutions possessed by the Government are not at all used."
The court also said that this isn't finding fault with the Government's activity in acquiring the antibodies from private endeavors or the deliberations about the fixing of value, the Court noticed,
“Our anguish is that when the Government itself is having the vaccines producing establishments, such institutions [dying public sector undertakings] might be revived and they might be placed into powerful use, so the Government might be in a position to cover all citizens, besides won't be in a position to deal with the private institutions at this difficult time."
Considering the prior conversations, this Court raises the following questions to be replied to by the respondents:
- Regardless of whether Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. [BHEL], Trichy, is having the facility for oxygen creation with three oxygen plants, having a limit of 140 metric cubes per hour, as stated by the applicant?
- What are the means taken by the Government of India according to the letter said to be written by the Member of Parliament, Tiruchi Siva?
- how many Government-claimed Vaccines Manufacturing Institutes are accessible in India and the details thereof, including their date of starting the operation, producing limit, and the current status of such Institutes?
- When was the Integrated Vaccines Complex [IVC], Chengalpattu set up, what is the producing limit and the current status?
- if the vaccine, COVAXIN, is created by Bharat Biotech, with the help of the Indian Council for Medical Research [ICMR] - National Institute of Virology [NIV], why these vaccines are grown distinctly at private institutions, rather than using the services of the Government Vaccine Manufacturing Institutes?
- The details with regards to the amount incurred by the Government of India for securing the vaccines, including the COVID vaccine, per year, for the past five years?
- When the Government of India is spending a huge amount for obtaining the vaccines from private endeavors, what are the means taken by the Government to revive the current Vaccine Institutes possessed by them?
At last, the Court posted the matter for further hearing on May 19, 2021.