HC asks Maha to address security concerns raised by SII CEO

·3-min read

Mumbai, June 1 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Tuesday said the Maharashtra government must assure the Serum Institute of India's (SII) CEO, Adar Poonawalla, of requisite security in the wake of alleged threats to him over the supply of the Covishield vaccine manufactured by his company.

A vacation bench of Justices SS Shinde and Abhay Ahuja said by manufacturing the anti-COVID-19 vaccine, Poonawalla was doing a great service to the nation and the state government's highest functionaries must look into the issue of his security.

It said the state's top officials must personally speak to Poonawalla, who recently went to London, and assure him of his safety upon his return to India.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by lawyer Datta Mane, seeking Z-plus security for Poonawalla.

The Union government has already granted 'Y' category security to the Pune-based industrialist.

The petitioner, through his counsel Pradip Havnur, told the HC that as per news reports, Poonawalla had been living in fear due to constant pressure from politicians and some others demanding that he provide more supply of the Covishield vaccine to their states.

Mane's plea said Poonawalla had left for London due to such threats.

Notably, Poonawalla had said in a recent interview to The Times that he has been receiving threats and pressure from 'powerful people' seeking vaccine doses on priority.

On Tuesday, the Maharashtra government's counsel, Deepak Thakare, told the HC that the state had provided Y- category security to Poonawalla as per which, some CRPF personnel and two gunmen from the state police will remain available for his security round-the-clock.

He further said the state was taking stock of the situation and would consider providing Z-plus security to Poonawalla upon his return to the country.

At this, the bench said the state must not consider the petition as an adversarial litigation.

'Mr Poonawalla is doing a fabulous job. He is doing a great service. He is serving the nation,' the HC said.

It further said Poonawalla was now trying to enhance the production of the vaccine.

'The court's expectation is that someone from the state government must speak to him and assure him that all safety arrangements will be made, and security will be provided to him whenever he is in Maharashtra,' the HC said.

Mumbai is the economic capital of the country, and Maharashtra is a progressive and modern state, it observed.

'If Mr Poonawalla has expressed any concerns, the state must address them,' the court said.

The bench directed advocate Thakare to speak to the state government officials and convey the court's concerns.

'Please speak to the highest state functionaries, maybe the state Home minister, and assurance must be given to him (Poonawalla) from the top. They should talk to him personally,' the HC said.

It directed the state government to make a statement before the HC on June 10 on the security provided to Poonawalla, the number of CRPF personnel that will remain on guard for him and other related issues. PTI AYA GK GK

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