In a significant development on Wednesday (February 23), a court in Telangana, hearing a defamation suit of INR 100 crore against propaganda website The Wire and others ordered The Wire to pull down defamatory articles about Hyderabad based vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech and its Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin.
Ordering The Wire to pull down 14 articles, the court also restrained the site from publishing any defamatory material.
The order was passed against the publisher of The Wire Foundation for Independent Journalism, its founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, MK Venu and others.
Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech has developed the country’s first indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin. Together with Pune-based Serum Institute, it has been at the forefront of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
Appearing for Bharat Biotech, Senior Counsel K Vivek Reddy argued that The Wire had published multiple articles which contained false allegations against Bharat Biotech and its Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin with malicious intent to undermine the reputation of the company.
He added that globally reputed vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech had previously developed vaccines for Tuberculosis (TB), Zika Rotavirus, Chikungunya & Typhoid and received national and global recognition.
Bharat Biotech’s Krishna Ella and Suchitra Ella were honoured with the country’s third-highest civilian honour Padma Bhushan in January this year.
In November 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Bharat Biotech campus in Hyderabad to take stock of the Covid-19 vaccine development process.
In January last year, the country launched the largest Covid-19 vaccine drive globally and administered 1,76,44,95,894 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Commenting on the development, Swarajya magazine CEO Prasanna Viswanathan said, “These articles were such contemptible hit-jobs. Only question that will remain unanswered – was it done just out of ideology-led hate of the country (inability to reconcile to a successful India-made vaccine) or foreign media asset placed here doing it a behest of their handlers?”
The vaccine giant has been a consistent target of motivated attacks since mid of 2020. Multiple articles were published alleging how the company had ‘bypassed’ laws to secure EUA (Emergency Use Authorisation).