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Oxygen concentrator black marketing: Delhi court pulls up Govt and Police, grants bail to accused from Matrix cellular

"The court is unable to comprehend as to why the provisions of Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of the Essential Commodities Act, 1980 are not being invoked by the state, if the state wants to stop black marketing," the Court said.

On May 12, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi pulled up the Delhi Government and Delhi Police in the case of oxygen concentrator hoarding and black-marketing over an incorrect statement made by the officer-in-charge of the case. The court was hearing a plea submitted by Gourav Khanna, the chief executive officer (CEO), Gaurav, business head, Sathish Sethi, manager, and Vikrant, sales executive at Matrix Cellular. The court granted bail to all four accused.

The public prosecutor informed the Saket court that the accused had cheated the government as he failed to disclose the MRP for imports in “violation of orders passed last year”. Questioning the nature of the offence, the Magistrate asked if the same model was sold at a higher price, it could be said that the seller has hiked the price. “But if they say the model is out of stock and you buy a different model, how is that wrong? Where is the statement?” the Magistrate asked the investigating officer.

According to the Police, Matrix Cellular received a consignment from China that contained 650 oxygen concentrators. The Police recovered 524 concentrators from the company. They were selling them at the price of Rs.70,000 apiece. It was alleged that Gaga Duggal, owner of Matrix Cellular who lives in London, helped his friend Navneet Kalra to import oxygen concentrations and sell them at triple the actual price.

Statement of complainant missing from case diary

While answering the Magistrate, the investigating officer admitted that the statement of the complainant was missing from the case diary. The admission irked the Magistrate, who said, “You don’t know what the proceedings are. I have called for the case diary. Am I not entitled to see the case?”

The court pulled the Delhi Government for making an incorrect remark on the witness statement that did not exist in the case diary. He said, “Is doing business in this country an offence? You say we won’t impose lockdown, so businesses are not affected. Now, these people have imported. There are no allegations of tax or customs duty evasion.”

The court further said that as per the documents submitted before him, the company had made all the payments, and the tax department was informed about it. He said, “The officer has not yet been able to negate the story that they imported something and paid Customs duty. All payments have been accounted for, IGST, SGST has been paid. If the government is accepting, the tax department has the information. Nothing was concealed.”

The court further questioned why the state did not invoke necessary act to prevent hoarding and black-marketing. The court said, “The court is unable to comprehend as to why the provisions of Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of the Essential Commodities Act, 1980 are not being invoked by the state, if the state wants to stop black marketing.”

Navneet Kalra’s bail plea order reserved

On the other hand, additional sessions judge Sandeep Garg had reserved the order on the pre-arrest bail plea by Navneet Kalra. He will announce the order on Thursday after hearing the arguments of the defence and the prosecution. Atul Srivastava, the Public prosecutor, informed the court that the Police need to interrogate Kalra in Police custody, and bail should not be granted to such an influential person. “His intention was to cheat the public at large and wrongfully gain. Had Delhi Police not busted the racket, many people would have been cheated,” he said.

Vikas Pahwa, Kalra’s advocate, argued that as there was no ceiling price fixed by the government, how his client could be accused of selling the concentrators at a higher price. “There is no MRP fixed by the government to date. How will you decide if the prices are exorbitant?” he asked the court.

“There is a request from the ministry to this company that we want 100 concentrators. What happened suddenly,” asked the court. The Magistrate added that if private companies are overcharging and misusing the shortage of resources in the market, it is the government’s job to control it.

‘You are arresting people to appease the high court’

The Magistrate, while pulling the government, said that the arrests were made to appease the High Court. He said, “You can’t just arrest people because we want to appease the high court. You promulgated the order on May 7 that you can’t sell over MRP. This FIR is of May 5. On that date, there was no crime. There were no regulations.”

The court further added that the government is trying to hide its failures. “Just to hide your failure, you are showing that we are arresting people. You’re creating a terror of punishment. That’s not the government’s job. When there is no law, you create the law first,” said the court.

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