Oxygen concentrator case: High court refuses interim relief to Navneet Kalra
The Delhi high court on Friday refused to grant interim protection from arrest to Khan Chacha owner Navneet Kalra in connection with the alleged black marketing and hoarding of oxygen concentrators.
“I am persuaded by the reasons given by the trial court which is a valid ground for me not to grant any interim protection now,” said the single-judge bench of justice Subramonium Prasad.
He posted the matter for further hearing to Tuesday (May 18), after additional solicitor general SV Raju, appearing for the police, sought more time to file a reply and argue the case.
Raju also opposed any interim relief to Kalra by arguing that the present case was not one where such a protection can be given.
In recent searches by the Delhi Police, 524 oxygen concentrators were recovered from three restaurants owned by Kalra.
Demand for oxygen concentrators had swelled during the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the national capital as many hospitals had ran out of medical oxygen as the number of critically ill patients rose. Such concentrators, which can derive 80-90% pure oxygen from ambient air, was also a crucial part of the medical supplies and aids provided by many foreign countries to help India’s efforts against the pandemic.
Also, investigators said they possess evidence to prove that the oxygen concentrators, which were bought for ₹14,000 to ₹15,000, were being sold for prices upwards of ₹75,000.
Kalra has been on the run since the equipment were seized from his restaurants, according to the police. The police said he could not be traced despite searches being conducted in Delhi and adjoining states such as Uttarakhand.
On Thursday, a city court had denied him anticipatory bail observing that the allegations against him were serious and his custody is required to “unearth the entire conspiracy”. Subsequently, he moved an anticipatory bail plea before the high court, which heard the matter late Thursday evening and had posted the matter to Friday for further proceedings.
On Friday, senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Vikas Pahwa, who appeared for Kalra, sought interim relief for their client till the matter was heard on Tuesday (May 18). Singhvi argued that this was a case of harassment and punishment cannot be given to a person before fixation of price of an essential commodity.
He also contended that the prosecution’s claim that the oxygen concentrators were of substandard quality. He referred to the police’s reply in another case, where they had told the court that the seized equipment had been given to Covid care centres.
On Thursday, Singhvi had said that his client bought the concentrators from Matrix Cellular after paying GST and the payment was made via credit card, therefore, there was nothing clandestine about the purchase of the equipment. He had said that Kalra sold the equipment within the labelled price that Matrix, which imported the concentrators, had fixed
Following arguments, the court posted the matter to May 18 for further hearing.