Some Must Be Charged for Manslaughter: Delhi HC on Vaccine Paucity

The court urged the Centre to cut short the process of manufacturing vaccines.

2 min read
Coronavirus Vaccination in India.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday, 2 June, lambasted the Centre over manufacturing of COVID vaccines, stating that officers sitting on the “untapped potential” to make vaccines needed to be “charged with manslaughter”.

A bench of Justices Manmohan and Najmi Waziri noted that manufacturers are lacking support and receiving no national aid in terms of fast-tracking approvals, "The problem is of fear psychosis that some vigilance enquiry or audit or police investigation will take place. Tell them, this is not the time to be wary of these investigations and audit reports. This is leading to deaths today. Actually, some people need to be charged with manslaughter for sitting over this untapped potential.”

Further, the court urged the Centre to cut short the process of manufacturing and somehow make the vaccine available.

The remarks came during the hearing of an application filed by Panacea Biotec seeking the release of award money – an amount of Rs 14 crore with interest of 12 per cent per annum from 2012 – granted to it by an arbitral tribunal in 2019.

As per the firm, which has with Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) for manufacturing Sputnik V, if the money is not released, it will be unable to expeditiously go through the process of making vaccines available to the public.

What the Centre Said

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Balbir Singh argued that the “matter of procuring and manufacturing Sputnik V is pending for hearing before the Supreme Court”. “Only Dr Reddy’s has been granted permission to import Sputnik V for restricted use in India,” The Indian Express quoted the Centre as submitting.

Further, the government counsel told the court that Panacea’s manufacture of Sputnik V may not come to India’s aid as its supply is meant for global sale and the company’s vaccine samples are still pending approval in India.

Court’s Remarks

However, the court rebuked, “If the vaccine has been approved for administering to the public at large, then the government is only required to see that the samples being produced by this firm conform with the existing standards.”

It highlighted that the Union government is not realising the full scope of vaccine manufacturing even when there accessibility and availability of infrastructure. “This untapped potential has to be utilised. Your officers are not realising this,” the court stated.

The bench raised objections to the Centre’s appeal for pending bridge trials. It said, “The rule empowers you to say ‘we will waive this’. If you, in your wisdom, think you would like to waive (bridge trials) because of an identical product that is imported, you are waiving it for them… You can dispense with it. But you will not do it. What does it mean? (sic)” The Indian Express quoted the bench as saying.

The court reserved the order and listed the matter for 4 June.

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