Takedown 14 defamatory articles against Bharat Biotech; Telangana court to Wire

In an Ad-Interim Ex-Parte order passed concerning a 100 Cr defamation suit filed by Bharat Biotech against the independent digital news media outlet The Wire, the court has restrained it from publishing any new articles and has ordered it to take down all past ones published concerning Bharat Biotech.

The Ranga Reddy District court in Telangana in an Ad-Interim Ex-Parte order (passed when severe damages are caused to the petitioner and where the defendant is not usually heard fully) has directed The Wire to take down 14 articles from its website and restrained it from publishing any more articles concerning the Pharma company Bharat Biotech

The order was passed after Bharat Biotech had filed an Rs100 crore defamation suit against independent digital news media outlet The Wire after it had published 14 articles criticizing the indigenous vaccine Covaxin developed by the Pharma company.

The company argued in court that Wire has published articles containing false information with malicious intent bringing in disrepute to the company and the indigenous vaccine. The company argued that articles containing false information were published with respect to approvals, safety and authorization of its vaccine.

The company in its defence said that it had previously developed vaccines for Tuberculosis, Zika Rotavirus, Chikungunya, and Typhoid and received national and global recognition.

The court passed this Ad-Interim Ex-Parte order highlighting the fact that Bharat Biotech is the only candidate which has been authorized to manufacture the vaccine for children between 15 to 18 years and that the defamatory articles published on the website will lead to vaccine hesitancy. The court also noted the fact that even after the Government of India had approved the vaccine, articles continued to be published on The Wire.

Reacting to the court order, The Wire’s founding editor, Siddharth Varadarajan, tweeted: “So 14 deeply reported Covaxin stories— published over a year—ordered to be taken down by a local court with no notice served on The Wire, no chance given for us to refute whatever false claims Bharat Biotech has made against us! Let me say this — BB’s bullying will not work.”

Ever since Indian companies successfully developed indigenous vaccines in 2021, vested groups have launched a sustained attack on them, promoting the use of allegedly superior American vaccines like Pfizer. Fake news with respect to the approvals, safety, and authorization of indigenous vaccines has been propagated in a bid to create indigenous vaccine hesitancy among the people. 

(With inputs from Live Law and Bar&Bench)

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