Release over Rs 14 crore to Panacea Biotec for manufacturing Sputnik V: Delhi HC tells Center
New Delhi: Expressing anguish over the way things have transpired in the second wave of Covid-19 where vaccine shortage is hitting everyone, the Delhi High Court on Friday directed the Central government to release Rs 14 crore along with interest from 2012 to vaccine maker, Panacea Biotec for manufacturing COVID vaccine, Sputnik-V subject to the company obtaining permission to manufacture it in India.
A Division Bench of Justices Manmohan Singh and Najmi Waziri also said the release of the amount, awarded to the company by the arbitral tribunal, will also be subject to the undertaking of the firm that 20 per cent of its sale proceeds of Sputnik V will be deposited with the court's registry till the awarded amount is secured.
The Court further asked the Central government to consider Panacea's application seeking waiver of trial for Sputnik V which has already been approved for limited use, in accordance with the law.
The high court was deliberating on the issue related to the manufacturing of COVID vaccine Sputnik V by India's Panacea Biotec in collaboration with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). It was dealing with the Central government's appeal against a Single Judge order rejecting its challenge to the arbitration award.
The court passed the observations and order on the application filed by Panacea Biotec for the release of the money awarded to it in 2019 by an arbitral tribunal in a 2010 case related to the manufacture of influenza vaccines.
Panacea sought to modify a July 2020 order, by which the firm had undertaken not to prosecute further the execution proceedings instituted by them in relation to an arbitral award, running into crores of rupees, passed in its favour and against the Centre.
The company, in its fresh application, sought the release of the arbitral award saying it needs funds at the earliest in the larger interest of humanity as it has already manufactured trial batches of COVID vaccine Sputnik V in collaboration with RDIF and the process of manufacturing scale-up batches is on.
Panacea Biotec, which is in collaboration with the Russian Direct Investment Fund for the manufacturing of 100 million doses of Sputnik V in a year, argued that if the money awarded in the arbitration is not released to it, there would not be any production amid a huge shortage of vaccines in India.
After hearing the matter, the bench noted,
"Today, we are a bit anguished with the way things have transpired during the second wave. As a responsible citizen you also would be anguished. Vaccine shortage is hitting each and everyone. Even today vaccine is not available in Delhi… You have good products in India, a little handholding will work."
It added that someone from Russia has been able to locate infrastructure in Himachal Pradesh but the Centre has failed to do so, reports PTI.
The Court further observed that it saw no reason behind conducting a domestic trial for a foreign vaccine that has already been tested at the place of its origin. It stated,
"One has to look at a bigger picture. Flexibility and alacrity has to be the mantra."
The Court further opined that there was nothing on record to show that the authorities "hand-held Indian vaccine manufacturers" to facilitate production.
Bar and Bench reports, the court also recorded that it was "apparent that there was untapped infrastructure" for vaccine manufacturing in the country.
While referring to some infrastructure being available in Himachal Pradesh and clarifying that the intent was not to prejudice anyone, the Bench added,
"We have the capacity. It was known to you but you have not explored it so far..manufacturers are concerned with profits. Let it be manufactured in every State. Why are you know thinking on those lines?.. We have the technology, patents.. can we now augment capacity? We have infrastructure."