24 Aug 2021 1:32 PM GMT
The Supreme Court will hear tomorrow a plea seeking directions to the Union Government to hand over the premises of HLL Biotech Limited in Chengalpet to the government of Tamil Nadu on lease to produce CoVID 19 vaccines. The matter will be heard by the division bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah. It has been argued in the petition filed in June 2021 that the complex...
The Supreme Court will hear tomorrow a plea seeking directions to the Union Government to hand over the premises of HLL Biotech Limited in Chengalpet to the government of Tamil Nadu on lease to produce CoVID 19 vaccines.
The matter will be heard by the division bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah.
It has been argued in the petition filed in June 2021 that the complex owned by HLL Biotech, a public sector unit directly under the Health Ministry, has been lying mostly idle since its construction in 2012 and the Centre has been trying to either sell it fully or partly or auction it to the private sector for making vaccines and other biological required for fighting Covid-19. It had been inviting expressions of interest from private firms since January but with the response lukewarm.
Filed by S Jimraj Milton through Advocate on Record T.S Sabarish, the plea states that India despite being home to the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, the Serum Institute of India and the second-biggest manufacturer: Bharat Biotech, and together these two facilities produce a combined output of about 2.5 million doses a day but despite this vaccine producing heft, a relatively small number of that capacity has gone towards vaccinating people within India.
"India's vaccination rate started with a few hundred thousand people per day, then slowly picked up speed, reaching one million per day, then two million in March. By late March, when it started hitting 2.5 million a day, the vaccination rate and the vaccine production rate were neck and neck. Up to that point, the Serum Institute had exported millions of vaccine doses to some of the world's poorest countries as part of COVAX, the program that aims to equalize global Covid-19 vaccine access. The manufacturer was instructed to halt exports in order to prioritize vaccines for the Indian population. Vaccine sites are now running out of doses and are having to turn people away. While this jam in vaccines was not the cause of the surge in cases, non-production and improper maintaining the supply of vaccines with support from Public sector units. From May 1, all adults in India will be eligible to receive the vaccine, however, due to a shortage of vaccination, it's a herculean task to achieve the same. It will require a unified domestic production to scale up vaccinations in India," plea states.
Milton in his plea has also averred that to increase the domestic production of the vaccines the government has to utilize the unused public sector units particularly, HLL Biotech Limited (HBL) which is a 100% subsidiary of HLL Lifecare Limited, a Government of India (GOI) Enterprise under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
It has also been argued that HLL is one of the leading players in the Indian health care industry engaged in the manufacture of a wide range of contraceptives and other health care products.
"Government of India mandated HLL to establish a state of the art vaccine manufacturing unit termed as "Integrated Vaccines Complex" (IVC) at Chengalpattu near Chennai to produce lifesaving and cost-effective vaccines primarily to minimize the demand-supply gap and support GOI in the Universal Immunization program. Now which is a Deserted campus, staff shortage, unpaid wages and financial troubles personify the Integrated Vaccine Complex (IVC) in Chengalpattu. The complex, on the contrary, 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," plea further states.
Averring that the Government expressed willingness to auction the state of the art facility capable of making more than 1 billion CoVID vaccine shots in a year, the petitioner has contended that the tenders, which opened on May 22, did not yield much as the bidders wanted the IVC to be given to them "at throw-away prices", said some highly-placed sources.
It was also contended that HLL floated an expression of interest in January and was in talks with major and mid-level players, which included pharma companies and biotech groups looking to make an entry into the vaccine market. A tender was floated at the end of March and bids could be submitted till May 31.
The petitioner has also submitted that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had written a letter to the Central Government and expressed its interest and requested the central government to hand over it to the state government on a lease, so that the state government could identify a suitable private partner immediately and could make all efforts to commence vaccine production at the earliest.
In light of the above-mentioned facts, the plea along with seeking directions from the central government to hand over premises of HLL Biotech Limited to the state of Tamil Nadu, had also sought for directing the central government to identify the institution which has the capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccination and make necessary steps to manufacture COVID-19 vaccination without any further delay.
Case Title: S.Jimraj Milton v. Union of India Rep. by its Cabinet Secretary & Ors.