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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Court junks Kalra’s custody plea: ‘Can’t be carried away by public sentiment’

Producing a tweet by Bollywood actor Salman Khan on handing out oxygen concentrators, Kalra’s lawyers opposed the remand and told the court that he was made “a poster boy” for black marketing while importing the life-saving equipment was not illegal.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: May 21, 2021 1:01:42 am
oxygen concentrators black. marketing, navneet Kalra oxygen concentrators seized, Delhi Police, covid 19, indian expressChief Metropolitan Magistrate Arun Kumar Garg will pronounce the order on Navneet Kalra’s bail application at 4 pm on Saturday. (File Photo)

A Delhi court Thursday dismissed an application by police seeking five-day custody of businessman Navneet Kalra, arrested in a case of alleged black marketing of oxygen concentrators, observing that “courts of law are not expected to be carried away by public sentiment”.

Producing a tweet by Bollywood actor Salman Khan on handing out oxygen concentrators, Kalra’s lawyers opposed the remand and told the court that he was made “a poster boy” for black marketing even though importing the life-saving equipment was not illegal.

Police sought five-day custody of Kalra, stating that they needed to investigate over 500 banking transactions. Additional Sessions Judge Akansha Garg instead sent Kalra to 14 days in judicial custody.

“In these testing times when utmost humanity and compassion have been exhibited by people, a few miscreants in society have resorted to vices like hoarding and black marketing of essential drugs and medical equipment which could otherwise have averted so much death and destruction,” the court said.

“Courts of law are not expected to be carried away by public sentiment and, therefore, cannot authorise detention merely because some stringent and non-bailable sections have been slapped on the accused by the prosecution. It is their sacrosanct responsibility to apply their judicial mind and delve into the said question deeply,” it added.

Kalra was produced before the court through video conferencing after his three-day police custody ended. His lawyer Vineet Malhotra said, “There are 5,000 such machines imported by Spice Jet; Salman Khan’s Twitter handle has a picture of oxygen concentrators. Government is allowing import of oxygen concentrators… Yesterday, he (Salman Khan) has got 500 machines. Navneet Kalra got these machines from somebody who has bought (them). Importers are on bail. They want to make him a poster boy.”

Malhotra told the court that Kalra also sold the equipment to police and judicial officers.

Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava told the court, “Salman Khan distributed free of cost. He has not made any money. He never said it is sufficient for two persons at one time. They said he (Kalra) sold to judicial officers and police officers. So he fooled them also.”

Srivastava said police wanted to confront Kalra with details of persons to whom he sold the concentrators. He told the court that 23 bank branches are involved in 516 transactions and so far 6-7 banks have replied to notices issued by police.

“These bank accounts are voluminous. He, along with the employee, will say about the bank transactions. We are also looking into his chartered accountant,” the APP told the court, adding that police were making a “mirror image of his phone”.

Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, who also appeared on Kalra’s behalf, said the mirror image did not require his custody. On banking transactions, he said “all bank statements will be provided by bank”.

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