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Some Living in Ivory Towers: Delhi HC to Centre on Vaccine Paucity

“Every day you are castigated by each and every court, and still, you are not awake,” said the Delhi HC. 

Updated
India
2 min read
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, 18 May, pulled up the Union government again – this time over the shortage of vaccines, observing that some administration officials are “living in ivory towers”, ignorant of the dismal ground reality at a time when Covid-19 “has not spared a single family”.

Hindustan Times quoted the bench as saying, “It is like a raging fire and nobody is bothered. You people don’t understand the larger picture or what? The virus has not spared any family. Your officers are living in ivory towers.”

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The petition by Panacea Biotec sought directions to the ruling government to release the crores of rupees that it owed to the firm out of an arbitration ruling. The plea looked to modify the order from July 2020, by which the firm had undertaken not to press the execution of the arbitral award passed in its favour.

As per Panacea Biotec, the money is required for the production Sputnik V doses, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, for which it has a licence from the original developers.

After the Centre opposed the firm’s petition, the bench said, “Which bureaucrat is giving you instructions? Is he not alive to the situation? God bless this country. That is why we are facing this situation. In such matters, instructions are to be taken from the highest authorities, that too within 30 minutes. (sic)”

The bench added, “Does your officer not see so many deaths taking place in the country and we are short of vaccines? Your client is not alive to the situation. (sic)”

The government opposed the plea, arguing that arrangement with the Russian Direct Investment Firm (RDIF) licence is for the global supply of Sputnik V.

The bench went on to censure this argument, saying that Panacea Biotec’s alliance with RDIF should be seen as an opportunity to ensure the vaccine’s supply and usage, adding that “no one was applying his mind” when an opportunity to augment the vaccine supply is presenting itself.

The bench said, “Otherwise, deaths will continue to occur. Every day you are castigated by each and every court, and still, you are not awake… You (the government) are so short of vaccines and you are not taking it through. Maybe it is an opportunity for you.”

Additional solicitor general Balbir Singh, who was representing the Centre, argued that “misleading statements” had been made in the plea. He said ‘there was no urgency as the vaccines were to be sent outside India.

However, senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, appearing for the firm retorted that no manufactured vaccine can be exported without the consent of the Union government.

The court has listed the matter for 31 May and asked the Centre to examine the plea and file a reply within seven days.

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