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 Mr 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 Adar Poonawalla.
The Union government has already granted 'Y' category security to the Pune-based industrialist.
The petitioner, through his counsel Pradip Havnur, told the high court that as per news reports, Mr 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.
Datta Mane's plea said Adar Poonawalla had left for London due to such threats.
Notably, Mr 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 high court that the state had provided Y- category security to Adar 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 Mr 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 high court said.
It further said Mr 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 high court 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 (Adar Poonawalla) from the top. They should talk to him personally," the high court said.
It directed the state government to make a statement before the high court on June 10 on the security provided to Mr Poonawalla, the number of CRPF personnel that will remain on guard for him and other related issues.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)