Monday, March 4, 2024

Covid-19 vaccine: Delhi HC says Centre not exploiting SII, Bharat Biotech capacity, wonders why donate abroad before vaccinating Indians here

The court had yesterday also issued notice to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII) and slated the matter for further hearing on Thursday.

The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked Indian Covid-19 vaccine makers, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, to file an affidavit stating their capacity to manufacture vaccines and whether it can be upscaled.

“….SII and Bharat Biotech file shall file their respective affidavits on the Capacity to manufacture the vaccines. The same shall be indicated on per day/week/month basis. The affidavit shall also stated the current optics of the vaccine and also about the Unutilised capacity and also if the capacity can be upscaled,”

-said a division bench of the high court presided over by Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli.

The court has also directed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to file an affidavit disclosing the capacity to transport the said medication particularly to the NCT of Delhi. “UOI shall also disclose in its affidavit the rationale about keeping a strict control on the class of persons to be vaccinated. DHCBA and BCD shall also file and affidavit regarding their strength,” the bench said while directing that the said documents shall be filed by March 9. Matter listed for hearing next on March 10.

The said directions were passed while the court was hearing a suo motu petition initiated by it on its own motion for inclusion of judicial staff, advocates and judges as frontline workers.

While the matter was being heard by way of video conferencing, the Central government through Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma and Central government standing counsel Anil Soni submitted that said petition was put before the National Expert Group which says its a policy decision.

Bharat Biotech and SII through their advocates submitted that adequate capacity is available subject to the orders of the Centre as there is a protocol in place.

Bar Council of Delhi chairman Ramesh Gupta informed the bench that he had already raised the issue with the Ministry.

Following these submissions, the court noted, “The whole point is that today’s guideline it is 60 above and 45 above with co-morbidity.”

“If the two institutes say they have the capacity, it conveys that their capacity is not being exploited to the full capacity,”

-the bench said.

“At the same time, we are donating, selling it to foreign countries.. there has to be a sense of urgency but not vaccinating our own people,” says the court.

Delhi HC Bar Association through its President and senior advocate Mohit Mathur also requested to become a party to the petition saying that they can also put forth their requirements.

Yesterday, the bench had sought response from Principal Secretary of the Health Ministry, Secretary of Delhi Health Ministry, SII and Bharat Biotech.

While initiating a Public Interest Litigation on its own motion, the court said, “…prima facie, it appears to us that there is weight in the claim made by the Bar Council of Delhi for declaring all persons associated with the judicial functioning, which includes the Judges, the Court Staff and the lawyers as Frontline workers, so that they could receive vaccination on priority, and without limitations of their age or physical condition.”

The suo motu cognizance was taken in view of a letter written by the Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi, urging that appropriate directions be issued to the concerned authorities to make available necessary infrastructure in Court premises for vaccination of the members of the judiciary by treating them as frontline workers.

In its order, the court also noted that the need of the hour is to vaccinate the masses, in view of the raging pandemic, on a war-footing so as to secure the life and health of all those who step out of their homes to attend to their avocations and professions.

“Courts, by their very nature, are places which have very high density congregations of people on a daily basis. Hundreds and thousands of cases are listed. in any given Court complex every day. Apart. from judges, the Court staff – which is substantial, and Advocates – who have to. attend to their respective cases, and a large number of litigants visit Courts in which their cases are listed, on a daily basis,”

-the court said.

Also Read: Delhi HC takes suo motu cognizance of Covid-19 vaccination for judges, judicial staff

It further observed that since the cases listed on any given day are mostly different from those listed on the previous day, or the next day, the litigants visiting the Courts constitute a different group from day to day to a great extent. The aforesaid peculiarity exposes the Judges, the Court staff, and the lawyers functioning in the Court system to the risk of contracting the disease from not only each other, but also from the large number of litigants who visit the Courts every day to attend to their cases.

“In fact, the number of persons visiting a Court complex – such as the Tiz Hazari Courts on any given day, may well be in excess of the number of persons visiting and thronging the hospital for treatment of patients,” the court said.


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