Noting that there was prima facie incriminating evidence that businessman Navneet Kalra sold oxygen concentrators manufactured in China, which did not have “adequate output so as to meet requirement of even one person”, a Delhi court dismissed his anticipatory bail application on Thursday.
Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Garg dismissed Kalra’s bail plea noting that the allegations against him were serious and the possibility of him “tampering with evidence or intimidating prosecution witnesses cannot be ruled out”.
“There is prima facie incriminating evidence on record against the applicant/accused i.e. that the concentrators being sold by applicant/accused were not manufactured with German collaboration and were manufactured in China. They were not having adequate output so as to meet requirement of even one person,” said the court in its order. It also clarified that nothing expressed in its order “shall be tantamount to expression of opinion on merits of the case”.
Police said they had recovered 524 concentrators from three restaurants owned by Kalra — Town Hall and Khan Chacha in Khan Market and Nege Ju in Lodhi Colony — as well as from Matrix’s warehouse in Chhatarpur’s Mandi Village. Five employees of Matrix, an international SIM company, had been arrested in connection with the case as well last week, and four were granted bail Wednesday.
Police have alleged these oxygen concentrators were sold at exorbitant prices during the pandemic.
The court perused a report submitted by Shriram Institute for Industrial Research, in respect to two oxygen concentrators seized from the premises owned by Kalra. It stated that the “average output in terms of oxygen purity is found to be 32.7% & 38.2%. With the laboratory room air, the oxygen concentration was found to be merely 20.8 %”.
The court noted that Kalra faced allegations of collecting advance payments from several needy persons for supply of oxygen concentrators and kept postponing the delivery on the pretext of shipment being held-up. “He kept increasing the price of the same and, eventually, he neither supplied the product to several persons nor refunded their advance amount,” the order read. |The court said Kalra has not joined investigation till date, the investigation in the case is in its initial stage, and his phone which reportedly contains incriminating WhatsApp chats with customers, details of calls made to co-accused persons, and his accounts, is required to be seized. “Custodial interrogation of applicant/accused is required to be carried out to unearth the entire conspiracy hatched between him and a number of co-accused persons,” the court said.
Meanwhile, Karla approached the Delhi High Court in the afternoon against dismissal of his bail plea by the trial court. The hearing took place before the bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad between 7 and 10 pm and will resume on Friday afternoon.
The Delhi Police told the HC that Kalra could be booked under serious offences in case it finds that anyone died after using the oxygen concentrators, which allegedly have been found to be of low quality.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju told the court that it is a “classic case of black marketing” and taking advantage of needy people during pandemic. Raju said two of the concentrators seized were examined and found to be producing only 32 per cent oxygen when WHO guidelines state they should at least increase oxygen to 80-82 per cent. “The representation which is made to induce people to buy these concentrators is that these are premium grade concentrators and manufactured with German collaboration whereas these are Chinese, third-grade concentrators where the laboratory reports show that instead of it being 82 per cent … it is 32 per cent,” he submitted.
The police also told the court that investigation is at a crucial stage and it was still ascertaining whether he was in conspiracy with the importing company as their machines were stored at his place. “A false representation is made to persons, who are induced to buy machines which are literally useless. We are still to investigate and find out persons who bought these machines, if somebody who used this machine thinking it was an oxygen concentrator and he died because he did not get sufficient oxygen,” Raju submitted, adding it has go into Karla’s records to find such persons.
“If we find that even in one case the person has died because of a defective oxygen concentrator. What happens? It may be an offence of 302 IPC, may be 304, can be culpable homicide, it can be attempt. These are all serious offences which require investigation,” continued the police counsel, while opposing the pre-arrest bail.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Karla, earlier argued that it was a “classic case” where the person is being made a victim by the media and where the police would be “prosecuted” by the media in case they don’t arrest him. “The press across the country is baying for his blood. Was he expected to cooperate without protection? I will cooperate fully but not by treating me like a fleeting criminal all over the place,” Singhvi submitted.
Singhvi also argued that Kalra is neither a manufacturer or importer and is paying the GST on purchases made by him. “I have done no hoarding. There is no order under Essential Commodities Act Section 03 which is a vital condition precedent for regulation in terms of price fixation or other aspects. You can’t judge me criminally without there being an obligation to sell at price X or not above Y,” he argued further.
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