The Bombay High Court has permitted Biovet Private Limited, an associate company of Bharat Biotech, to take possession of a fully operational and ready-to-use vaccine manufacturing plant on a 12-hectare plot in Pune to produce Covaxin. Bharat Biotech produces Covaxin, a vaccine against Covid-19.
A division bench of Justices K K Tated and N R Borkar on May 6 heard an application filed by Karnataka's Biovet Private Limited seeking direction to the Maharashtra government to hand over possession of the manufacturing unit at Manjari Khurd village in Pune. The unit was being used by 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.
Intervet is exiting business operations in India and entered into an agreement with Biovet to transfer the land and manufacturing unit to the latter. When Biovet sought the government's approval for the transfer, the deputy conservator of forests (Pune division) pointed out that it was a reserved forest and the initial 1973 grant itself was bad.
Biovet then approached HC in challenge and, in an interim application, also sought direction to the government to grant it licences and permissions to enable the manufacture of vaccine for Foot Mouth Disease as well as Covaxin. RD Soni, appearing for Biovet, argued that the unit and machinery was lying idle due to delay in handing over possession of the land.
He also told the court the company would not claim any equity in respect to the land in question. The company also submitted an undertaking stating it would use the unit to manufacture Covaxin. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the court the Maharashtra government had no objection if the company used the unit for manufacturing lifesaving vaccines, including Covaxin, but it should not claim any right, title and interest in future.
Kumbhakoni further told the court if the company filed applications seeking permissions, the state government shall consider the same expeditiously. The HC said considering the COVID-19 situation, the concerned authorities are directed to handover peaceful possession of the ready-to-use BSL-3 vaccine manufacturing facility.
"The respondent (state government) is directed to grant appropriate licences/permissions/NOCs to the applicant (Biovet) in a time-bound manner to enable manufacture of the Food and Mouth Disease vaccine, Covaxin and other life saving vaccines," the HC said.