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Give ‘idle’ unit to firm making Covaxin, Bombay HC tells state govt

The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to hand over “peaceful possession” of an “idle” vaccine-manufacturing unit situated in a Pune village to Biovet Private Limited, an associate of Bharat Biotech, to begin manufacturing of Covaxin.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
May 11, 2021 3:40:46 am
The court is likely to hear the PIL on Thursday. (File Photo)

The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to hand over “peaceful possession” of an “idle” vaccine-manufacturing unit situated in a Pune village to Biovet Private Limited, an associate of Bharat Biotech, to begin manufacturing of Covaxin – the homegrown Covid-19 vaccine — and other life-saving vaccines.

The facility is situated in Village Manjari Khurd, in Haveli Taluka, on a piece of land measuring 11.58 hectares.

A division bench of Justice K K Tated and Justice Nitin R Borkar passed the order to the Maharashtra government through the Pune District Collector on May 6, on an interim application by Biovet seeking possession of the unit for vaccine-manufacturing. The applicant firm also sought direction to the authorities to permit it to carry out structural changes to utilise the maximum installed capacity of the unit, which the court accepted.

The unit was being used by Intervet India Pvt Ltd, a multinational subsidiary of Merck & Co, after the land was granted to it in 1973 to manufacture a vaccine for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

Intervet, which is exiting business operations in India, had entered into an agreement with Biovet to transfer the Pune land and manufacturing unit to the latter.

However, after Biovet sought government approval for transfer of land and unit, the Forest Department said it could not be carried out as the area was part of reserved forest land, adding the 1973 grant itself was bad.

Advocate RD Soni, appearing for Biovet, informed the court that the firm had filed a writ plea challenging two directives by the Forest Department that prevented the firm from starting manufacturing activities at the facility.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state government, submitted that it did not have objection if the firm’s plea is allowed only for manufacturing Covaxin and other life-saving vaccines without claiming any right or title on same property, subject to outcome of writ plea. He said that the officers concerned will decide “without wasting time” on requests for necessary permissions. The bench allowed interim application made by Biovet and directed the authorities to grant licenses, permissions or no-objection certificates to Biovet in a “time-bound manner” to enable manufacturing of the vaccines.

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