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Bombay High Court directs State to Hand Over Idle Manufacturing Unit to Biovit for Producing Covaxin

Sharmeen Hakim
11 May 2021 3:21 AM GMT
Bombay High Court directs State to Hand Over Idle Manufacturing Unit to Biovit for Producing Covaxin
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The Bombay High Court has allowed Biovit Pvt Ltd, an associate company of Bharat Biotech, to take possession of a ready to use vaccine manufacturing facility in Maharashtra's Pune District to produce the Covid-19 vaccine - 'Covaxin.' The division bench of Justices K K Tated and N R Borkar allowed Biovit's interim application in a petition challenging the Forest Department's decision...

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The Bombay High Court has allowed Biovit Pvt Ltd, an associate company of Bharat Biotech, to take possession of a ready to use vaccine manufacturing facility in Maharashtra's Pune District to produce the Covid-19 vaccine - 'Covaxin.'

The division bench of Justices K K Tated and N R Borkar allowed Biovit's interim application in a petition challenging the Forest Department's decision to disallow them from re-starting a manufacturing unit on forest land.

Biovit's plea was allowed after they undertook not to claim equities in their favour if they were permitted to operate the manufacturing unit and use the facility on 11.58-hectares, only to produce 'Covaxin'.

Following their undertaking, the State, represented by the Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, said the officers would cooperate and decide Biovit's applications seeking permissions without wasting any time considering the present Covid-19 situation in Maharashtra.

"Considering the present position of Covid-19 and as the Applicants are ready and willing to start manufacturing activities without prejudice to the rights and contentions of both the parties in writ petition proceeding and considering the undertaking given by the Applicants by their affidavit-cum-undertaking dated April 30, 2021, and as the Learned Advocate General has no objection to allow the present interim application, we are satisfied that the Applicants have made out a case for allowing this Interim Application," the bench observed.

The Dispute

The unit belonged to Intervet India Pvt Ltd, a multinational and subsidiary of Merck & Co, after land was granted to it in 1973 to manufacture vaccine for Foot and Mouth Disease.

Since Intervet is exiting business operations in India, Biovet purchased the unit and the land it stood on.

However, the Assistant Conservator of Forest refused Biovet permission to start manufacturing activities for a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Covid-19 vaccine. He claimed that the initial 1973 grant itself was bad in law. The Deputy Conservator of Forest also refused to review the order on July 2, 2020.

Biovet then approached the Bombay High Court, challenging the order. Its interim application also sought directions to the State, to grant licences and permissions to enable vaccine manufacture.

Counsel for Biovet RD Soni submitted that a plant and machinery lie idle because of the dispute between the petitioners and the Respondent-State.

Intervet's counsel also submitted that the unit should be kept running.


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