The Allahabad High Court has dismissed the writ petition filed by Skoda Auto Volkswagen India for quashing of a FIR registered against it in Noida for installing “cheat devices" in its vehicles.
In an order, Justice B. Amit Sthalekar and Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav said: “We have considered the submissions of the learned counsel for the parties and we are of the opinion that the question as to whether a ‘cheat device’ was installed in the vehicles purchased by the respondent no.3 and whether they satisfy the BS-IV norms or not, is a matter of investigation and the investigation cannot be interfered with by this Court on an erroneous interpretation of the interim order of the Supreme Court.
“The prayer for quashing the FIR is refused. The writ petition lacks merit and is accordingly, dismissed."
The petitioners had sought quashing of the FIR dated July 10, 2020 registered as Case Crime no. 0613 of 2020 under various sections of the IPC at Police Station Noida Sector 20 with a further prayer to stay the entire proceeding of the aforesaid case. The respondent was the state of Uttar Pradesh and two others.
The court also said: “However, in the facts and circumstances of the case and the submissions advanced on behalf of the petitioner, it is directed that the petitioner shall not be arrested in the aforesaid case till the submission of police report under Section 173 (2) Cr.P.C., subject to the restraint that he shall co-operate with the investigation and shall appear as and when called upon to assist in the investigation."
Additional Government Advocate A.N. Mulla, opposing the writ petition, submitted that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had left it open for the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to initiate prosecution as per the prescribed statutory regime and therefore, the order of the Supreme Court directing no coercive action would be confined to any action which may be contemplated by the CPCB which was a party before the Tribunal.
It would not operate as a blanket embargo against private individual/individuals who may have lodged an FIR on an allegation that they felt cheated by the faulty emission standards declared by the company which may, later on, have come to his/their knowledge that the same did not satisfy the BS-IV norms, he added.
Senior counsel Naveen Sinha, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the NGT had passed an order on March 7, 2019, imposing damages and enhanced amount of compensation amounting to Rs 500 crore against company on a finding that a ‘cheat device’ had been installed by it during laboratory tests in its vehicles which showed lower emissions.
He also submitted that the Tribunal had also left it open to the CPCB to consider initiation of prosecution in light of the applicable statutory regime, and in “view of this interim protection granted by the Supreme Court, the FIR which is impugned in the present writ petition is nothing but malicious prosecution and could not have been lodged at all and the same is liable to be quashed".
The complainant came to know from the NGT order that a certain cheat device had been installed by the company during laboratory tests to show lower emission norms and, therefore, he felt cheated and hence, filed the FIR.
The allegation in the FIR is that the complainant had purchased seven Audi brand cars worth several crores of rupees, from the petitioners through their authorised dealer and he was assured that emission norms in India were not as strict as in other countries and India being a growing market for Audi brand vehicles, the company has not installed any cheat device in its vehicles meant to be sold in India.