Take down stories on Bharat Biotech, court tells The Wire

The Additional District Judge at Ranga Reddy District Court on February 23 passed an order directing Delhi-based news website The Wire to take down 14 articles it published on Hyderabad’s Bharat Biotech International Limited and its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin.

The court passed the order on a Rs 100 crore defamation suit filed by Bharat Biotech against The Wire, its publisher and non-government orgaisation Foundation for Independent Journalism, the website’s editors MK Venu, Siddharth Vardarajan and Sidharth Bhatia, and nine others who wrote the articles.

At the hearing, Senior Counsel K Vivek Reddy, appearing for Bharat Biotech, argued that The Wire had published the articles that contained false allegations against the company and its vaccine with a “malicious intent” to undermine its reputation.

He contended that the news portal published articles on vaccine authorisation and approvals without doing a proper fact check.

Reddy submitted that Bharat Biotech has previously developed several vaccines for diseases such as Zika Rotavirus, Tuberculosis, Chikungunya, and Typhoid. He said that the company has received national and global recognition and has collaborated with leading Indian institutions to develop the vaccines.

The court noted that Bharat Biotech is the only company that has been authorised to manufacture coronavirus vaccines for children between 15 and 18 years. It added that the “defamatory articles” would lead to vaccine hesitancy.