The Delhi High Court on Friday declined to grant any interim relief to businessman Navneet Kalra in connection with the oxygen concentrator black marketing case being probed by the Delhi Police.
“I’m persuaded by trial court (order rejecting anticipatory bail)...” the Court said as it clarified that it was not inclined to give any protective order at this stage.
The Court adjourned the anticipatory bail plea filed by Kalra for further hearing on May 18.
The matter was heard today by Justice Subramonium Prasad who had also taken up the matter yesterday evening.
Request for an adjournment was made by Additional Solicitor General SV Raju who submitted that time was needed to file a response before the Court in view of recent developments.
“I’m requesting that the matter be kept on Tuesday. There are a lot of developments. There are shell companies..”, Raju said.
Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi once again contended that in the absence of a government order capping the price of oxygen concentrators, Kalra could not be said to in violation of the Essential Commodities Act.
After making submissions on the Drug Price Control Order, Singhvi urged the Court to adjourn the matter till Monday instead and also grant interim protection.
“It is only fair that the matter is not made infructuous till Monday … I’m not in a begging game here. I’m on my right..”, he submitted.
During the course of submissions, ASG Raju emphasised that there was nothing “special” about the Kalra’s anticipatory bail so as to warrant a hearing on a holiday.
“Matter was heard yesterday at 7 pm beyond court hours.. what is so great in an anticipatory bail”, Raju remarked.
The remarks drew a sharp response from Singhvi, who said,
“I’m objecting strongly to attempts…Mr. Raju has come with fresh instructions.. court shoulders are meant to be broad and are broad.. Magistrates hear cases on Sundays. Does Supreme Court sit on Sunday or not? Such attempts to embarass on instructions..”
On this aspect, the Bench eventually pointed out that the reason why the case was heard yesterday was to avoid impeding the ongoing investigation.
“This is not a regular bail after they were arrested.. investigation is on.. the issue is to grant you anticipatory bail and impede investigation .. The whole point of hearing the case yesterday was to avoid the question of temporarily impeding the investigation“, Justice Prasad observed.
This is an open and shut case of harassment, Singhvi asserted.
Even as the Court referred to the trial court’s observation that spurious and inferior concentrators were sold at a higher price by Kalra, Singhvi contended that the present case did not pertain to an offence that could not be investigated without an arrest.
“I’m not touching inferior quality issue… We’ve gone through Essential Commodities Act.. maximum charge here is ‘you have charged more.’ It is not clearly spelt out in FIR..it is not an offence that can’t be investigated without my arrest“, Singhvi responded.
He went on to contend,
“When overcharging is the issue, is arrest the correct form? Can you arrest? In course, you may. Should you arrest is the question. Answer should be in my favour … Is this case the case to arrest..? Is the criminal court supposed to balance of not? … You are catching me on overpricing when you have not fixed the price.”
The Court eventually declined to grant interim protection and adjourned the hearing till May 18.
Kalra had moved the High Court after Additional Sessions Judge at Saket Court refused to grant him anticipatory bail on the ground that his custodial investigation was required to be carried out by Delhi Police to unearth the entire conspiracy.
The trial court opined that there was prima facie incriminating evidence on record against Kalra to the effect that contrary to the brochure, the concentrators being sold by him were not manufactured with “German collaboration” but were manufactured in China instead.
As per the prosecution case, Kalra, along with other co-accused, “hatched a conspiracy” to wrongfully make money by “inducing” the public to buy his oxygen concentrators at an “exorbitant rate” amid a raging pandemic.
The prosecution contended that Kalra had made “crores of rupees” by inducing the needy public to believe that his oxygen concentrators were “premium”, “German” and “sufficient for two persons”.
Kalra, on the other hand, claimed that he was being “framed” based on content on social media and was made a scapegoat to divert attention from more pressing issues.