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HLL Biotech: Supreme Court asks petitioner to amend prayers in plea on vaccine unit near Chennai

The Apex Court has allowed the petitioner to withdraw their plea and re-file it with amended prayers that does not reflect benefit of state governments in a PIL. The bench of Justice Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah, while giving liberty to the petitioner to re-file the petition, observed that the prayer in it is worrisome and the court cannot issue such directions to the Centre.

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The Supreme Court today has asked the petitioner to amend prayers in a plea seeking directions to the Centre to hand over the premises of the state-of-art vaccine manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, namely HLL Biotech Limited (HBL), on lease to the state of Tamil Nadu to produce Covid-19 vaccines 

The Apex Court has allowed the petitioner to withdraw their plea and re-file it with amended prayers that does not reflect benefit of state governments in a PIL. The bench of Justice Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah, while giving liberty to the petitioner to re-file the petition, observed that the prayer in it is worrisome and the court cannot issue such directions to the Centre.  

“Direct the Director General, IMA & National Institute of Virology to authorize interested Public and Private Sector Unit to produce Covaxin under Section 92 Compulsory licensing of The Patent Act, 1970 to meet the requirement of National Health Emergency by issue license for their patent.”

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner along with advocate T.S. Sabarish, submitted that the Government of India mandated HLL to establish a state-of-art vaccine manufacturing unit at Chengalpattu near Chennai to produce lifesaving and cost-effective vaccines to minimize the demand-supply gap and support GOI in the Universal Immunization program. The premises are lying unutilized since 2012 and this state-of-art complex is ready for manufacturing vaccines.

The petition stated that, with the second largest population and one of the biggest pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities in the word, India has a central role in the Covid-19 caccination effort. To vaccinate 18 plus citizens, 180 crore doses of vaccine would be needed. As per available data with the present capacity only 7 crore doses of vaccine can be manufactured in a month. Therefore, the government has to revive public sector undertakings and state-owned enterprises to ramp up vaccine production.

According to the plea, “HLL Biotech Limited (HBL) is a 100% subsidiary of HLL Lifecare Limited, a Government of India (GOI) Enterprise under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which is now a Deserted campus, staff shortage, unpaid wages and financial troubles personify the Integrated Vaccine Complex (IVC) in Chengalpattu. Even though the complex should have been bustling with activity, instilling confidence among health officials at a time when people are scrambling for jabs amid the raging second wave of the pandemic.”

Read Also: Judges’ security: Bar Council of India pleads with Supreme Court for specialised security force to protect judges, Court premises

The petition further stated that Centre has been trying to either sell it fully or partly or auction it to the private sector for making vaccines and other equipment required for fighting Covid-19. The Centre had been inviting expressions of interest from private firms since January but the response has been lukewarm.

“It is respectfully submitted that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M.K. Stalin has written a letter to the Prime Minister and expressed his interest and requested the Central government to hand it over to the state government on lease, so that the state government will identify a suitable private partner immediately and will make all efforts to commence vaccine production at the earliest,” the plea stated. 

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