By LE Desk
New Delhi, May 21: A court in Delhi has rejected the plea of Delhi Police seeking five more days of custodial interrogation of businessman Navneet Kalra in connection with allegedly hoarding and black marketing life-saving oxygen concentrators and called it “flawed”.
Kalra, who was produced before the court yesterday on expiry of his three days of police custody, was sent to 14 days of judicial custody. The order was passed by Metropolitan Magistrate Akanksha Garg of Saket court, news agency PTI reported.
The judge said that police’s contention to secure Kalra’s custody on the grounds that the mirror images of his recovered mobile phones are yet to be created, or the data from the laptop is yet to be segregated is flawed at the outset.
“Whatever substantial had to be achieved by the investigating agency through the police remand of the accused has already been achieved and no fruitful purpose would be served by extending the police custody of the accused,” the metropolitan magistrate said.
Rejecting the police’s remand application, the district judge added that the offence in the present case is of a grave nature and has serious implications for society at large, but the courts of law are not expected to be carried away by public sentiment.
The court cannot authorise detention merely because some stringent and non-bailable sections have been slapped upon the accused by the prosecution, the court said, adding that it is their sacrosanct responsibility to apply their judicial mind.
The judge added, “In the light of the submissions made by the IO wherein all the incriminating material available against the accused has been recovered and what remains is the mere confrontation of the accused, this court is of the view that the police remand of the accused is not warranted in the said case”, PTI said.
The judge, however, noted that in these testing times, a few miscreants in society have resorted to vices like hoarding and blackmarketing of essential drugs and medical equipment which could otherwise have averted so much death and destruction.
During a recent raid, 524 oxygen concentrators were recovered from Khan Chacha, Town Hall, and Nege & Ju restaurants owned by Kalra. The absconding businessman was nabbed from Gurugram on May 16 night and formally arrested the next day.
During the proceedings, Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava sought an extension of the police custody of the accused on the grounds that two mobile phones have been recovered from the accused, their mirror images are yet to be prepared and he is yet to be interrogated.
The prosecutor said that during the police remand, the laptop was recovered from the accused which contained bills of the oxygen concentrators, details of the other transactions and these bills were yet to be segregated and the accused was required to be questioned for the same.
However, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, representing Kalra, opposed the remand application of the police on the grounds that all the recoveries have already been made and nothing remains that would require further custodial interrogation of his client.
During the earlier three-days of custodial interrogation, the police took Kalra to the three upscale restaurants owned by him in Khan Market and Lodhi Colony. He was also taken for the mandatory medical examination.
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 apiece against its cost of Rs 16,000 to Rs 22,000.
The concentrators are crucial medical equipment used for Covid-19 patients and are in high demand amid the second wave of the pandemic.
On May 5, a case was registered against Kalra under Section 420 (cheating), 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by public servant), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, Essential Commodities Act and Epidemic Diseases Act.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also registered a money laundering case against him.