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Job of govt not that of a terrorist, says Delhi court while hearing oxygen concentrator black marketing case

This came after police recovered 524 concentrators from three restaurants owned by businessman Navneet Kalra — Town Hall, Khan Chacha and Nege Ju — and Matrix's warehouse in Chhatarpur.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: May 11, 2021 11:04:31 pm
Healthcare workers take stock of oxygen cylinders at a makeshift Covid care centre in New Delhi. (Representational Image)

A Chief Metropolitan Magistrate hearing the bail applications of five people, who were arrested over alleged black marketing of oxygen concentrators recovered from three Delhi restaurants, has said the State’s job is “not that of a terrorist” and asked whether doing business in this country is an offence.

The remarks were made by CMM Arun Kumar Garg, who reserved his order on the bail applications for Wednesday.

On Saturday, police had arrested Matrix Cellular‘s CEO Gaurav Khanna and vice-president Gaurav Suri along with three other employees, Vikrant, Satish Sethi and Hitesh, and booked them under sections related to cheating, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Essential Commodities Act.

This came after police recovered 524 concentrators from three restaurants owned by businessman Navneet Kalra — Town Hall, Khan Chacha and Nege Ju — and Matrix’s warehouse in Chhatarpur.

Police claim Kalra was working with Matrix owner Gagan Duggal to sell the equipment at an inflated price. Kalra has filed an anticipatory bail application but is yet to be granted interim relief, with the Principal District and Sessions Judge at Saket district court saying it will decide the appropriate court where his plea will be heard.

During the hearing on the bail pleas of the five Matrix employees, CMM Garg told Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, who was appearing for the State: “Just for the sake of hiding your failures, that you have not been able to regulate the price, have not been able to maintain the supply, you are running after the people. Job of the government is not that of a terrorist; you can’t behave like a terrorist that we have to create terror.

Anyone you will punish, you need to know the law. It feels like you don’t want to create the law, abdicate responsibility. If the State is not fulfilling responsibility, will we start picking up people? We are free to take our own decisions,” CMM Garg said.

Shrivastava had told the court while opposing the bail applications, “This is cheating to the government also, not just the people… Accused persons are taking advantage of the pathetic condition of Covid wherein people are suffering, and hatched a conspiracy. They increased the prices and sold the oxygen concentrators.”

CMM Garg said: How is cheating made out? They are saying that three types of concentrators were there, offered at different prices. In case they ask for a high price for a particular model, I understand. Suppose that model is out of stock and he is offered another model and he pays the price for that model. How is that cheating?”

“If it is the government policy, that the government orders items from China — so if the government orders then it is high quality, if private company orders then it is cheap. As a matter of policy, if the government is not banning imports from China and if the person has imported, I am saying this cannot be ground for invoking section 420 (cheating) of the IPC,” Garg said.

The APP told the court that the accused persons were fixing “exorbitant rates” for the concentrators.
CMM Garg said, “Then you fix the prices. You have fixed the prices for masks last year, sanitiser (prices) you fixed, and in three months you recalled the rates.”

“Is doing business in this country an offence?… They paid custom duty and sold it through banking channels. They are paying tax to the government and if the government is taking tax, that means this was being done under the nose of the government. Nothing was concealed,” CMM Garg said. “Yesterday only I saw the documents of the accused. There is a requisition from the ministry of 100 oxygen concentrators. That means everybody was aware of it… You can’t first penalise people and then make a law because the High Court wants something, and to remain in the good books to show that yes we did something, you go after people.”

Kalra’s lawyer Vineet Malhotra told the court, “He has bought at a reasonable price. He has all the invoices (which have been) given to the investigating officer. I have sold it to police officers. I don’t want to embarrass the court. I have sold it to officers of the court… I have sold it to senior officers… to Special Commissioner of Police, DCP, and they have paid through credit cards. It is not like they found something new today.”

Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, who appeared on behalf of Suri, Vikrant and Satish, told the court that the police case was based on “surmises and conjectures”.

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