KARACHI: While temporarily allowing a private firm to sell Covid-19 vaccine, the Sindh High Court on Thursday observed that any restriction on the sale of Covid-19 vaccine at this stage would be against public interest since it was an urgent need due to the crisis being currently faced by the country.
The single-judge bench headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar also extended its earlier interim stay order against withdrawal of exemption notification issued by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) about Covid-19 vaccines’ import by a private firm till April 12.
The bench ruled that it would decide the question whether the exemption granted for Covid-19 vaccine import could be rescinded or not on April 12.
A pharmaceutical company filed a suit before the SHC and contended that the Drap had withdrawn its earlier notification issued on Feb 2, under which it exempted the import of Covid-19 vaccine for sale for a period of six months or till the market prices of those vaccines become available.
It was further argued that therefore the firm entered into a vaccine supply agreement with a foreign seller/exporter for the import of one million doses of Covid-19 vaccine (Sputnik-V) and the consignment had already arrived at Karachi Port, but the impugned notification was withdrawn by Drap.
SHC rules ban on sale of vaccine against public interest
When the bench took up an application of the firm seeking contempt proceedings against the authorities concerned for not releasing the vaccine from the port on Thursday, the alleged contemnor, a federal drug inspector Sindh, turned up and filed an explanation.
He contended that he was not the competent authority to release the consignment in question and thus such delay, if any, cannot be attributed to him.
However, the bench dismissed the contempt application after the lawyer for plaintiff firm said that the consignment had already been released and he did not want to press the application.
The counsel for the federal authorities, who were impleaded as defendants in the suit, informed the bench about the order of a two-judge bench issued on March 31 in the present matter and requested for time to place on record the price of Covid-19 vaccine to be fixed by the federal government on next hearing.
The lawyers for the federal authorities also sought a restraining order for the plaintiff firm not to sell the subject vaccine as the price had not been fixed yet.
However, the lawyer for the firm vehemently opposed it on the ground that the impugned notification of March 18 to withdraw the exemption was illegal.
The bench observed that the question whether the exemption granted to the Covid-19 vaccine could be rescinded or not will be decided when the main suit is to be taken up for hearing (on April 12).
“It may be observed that if the court comes to the conclusion that the subject vaccine ought to have been sold by the plaintiff at the price determined by the federal government, the excess amount, if any, received by the plaintiff can be recovered from the plaintiff as all the relevant details, such as, the number of ampules imported and sold by the plaintiff and price thereof can easily be sought from the plaintiff. Learned counsel for the plaintiff states that the plaintiff shall voluntarily place all such information before this court”, it added.
“In view of the above, I am of the considered view that any restriction relating to the sale of the Covid-19 vaccine at this stage would be against the public interest because of its undisputed urgent need due to crisis being currently faced by the country,” the bench in its order concluded.
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2021