New Delhi: A Delhi court on Saturday granted bail to businessman Navneet Kalra in a case pertaining to the seizure of oxygen concentrators from his upscale restaurants in the city.
Chief metropolitan magistrate Arun Kumar Garg has directed the accused not to contact the customers to whom he had sold the concentrators, not to tamper with evidence or influence the witnesses, and join the investigation as and when called by the police.
During a recent raid, 524 oxygen concentrators, which are a crucial medical equipment used for COVID-19 patients, were recovered from Khan Chacha, Town Hall, and Nege & Ju restaurants owned by Kalra.
The businessman, accused of black-marketing the critical medical device, was nabbed from Gurugram on May 16 and formally arrested the next day. He had been on the run ever since the police raided his restaurants and seized the medical devices. A court had later sent him to judicial custody till June 3.
During the course of hearing on the bail plea, additional public prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, representing the Delhi Police, told the court that the businessman committed a white-collar crime and made profit by selling medical devices at exorbitant price to those on death beds.
Kalra’s lawyers, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa and advocate Vineet Malhotra, opposed the contentions of the police and said that their client is being made a scapegoat and had no criminal intent to cheat people as he sold the oxygen concentrators to merely help family and friends.
The police claimed that the concentrators were imported from China and were being sold at an exorbitant price of Rs 50,000 to 70,000 a piece as against its cost of Rs 16,000 to Rs 22,000.
“His intention was to cheat people and make profit. This is a white-collar crime. He sold oxygen concentrators to needy people lying on death beds,” additional public prosecutor Shrivastava told the court and sought rejection of Kalra’s bail plea.
The remarks by the Delhi Police come a day after Kalra, through senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, told the court that he had no criminal intent to cheat people and cannot be kept in pre-trial detention.
During the course of the proceedings on Saturday, the prosecutor showed Kalra’s oxygen concentrator brochures to the court, and said they were not premium or from Germany as claimed by the accused.
“Its flow was also below 35%, and he sold it for more than Rs 70,000 as against the MRP of Rs 27,999,” he added.
On Kalra’s contentions that he was merely helping those in need, the prosecutor said, “He was not doing any charity. If he had sold them at the cost price, it would have been a charity but he took a margin.”
The police further relied on a report by the Sriram Institute for Industrial Research on the oxygen concentrators’ efficacy and submissions of doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Shrivastava said the doctors opined that the oxygen concentrators were not suitable for treatment of COVID-19 patients due to their low efficacy.
“It is useless and as good as a box. Using them for even mild and moderate patients would cause harm. It will accelerate death,” the additional public prosecutor said.
He further apprised the court about the gravity of the offence and sought rejection of bail on the grounds that the businessman tampered with evidence, deleted material from the device and gave a bad name to the society.
The police have claimed that the concentrators were imported from China and were being sold at an exorbitant price of Rs 50,000 to 70,000 a piece against its cost of Rs 16,000 to Rs 22,000.
On May 5, a case was registered against Kalra under sections 420 (cheating), 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by public servant), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, the Essential Commodities Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also registered a money laundering case against him.
(With PTI inputs)
Note: This article was first published at 3:51 pm on May 29, 2021 and was updated after Kalra received bail.