Businessman Navneet Kalra, who is an accused in the oxygen concentrator blackmarketing case, on Friday submitted before a court here that he had no criminal intent to cheat people and cannot be kept in pre-trial detention. During a recent raid, 524 oxygen concentrators, which are crucial medical equipment used for COVID-19 patients, were recovered from Khan Chacha, Town Hall, and Nege & Ju restaurants owned by Kalra. The restaurateur is in judicial custody till June 3.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arun Kumar Garg was hearing the bail application of the businessman who was arrested on May 17 for allegedly hoarding oxygen concentrators and selling them at exorbitant price. Kalra, through senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, told the court, I had no criminal intent to cheat anyone. The government has benefited from my sales, they got GST. I paid the income tax. The lawyer added, My invoices and oxygen concentrators are with them [the police]. No more recoveries are to be made against me. I cannot be put in pre-trial detention." Further, Advocate Pahwa said that his client traded the oxygen concentrators at a lower price than other online portals and sold them to merely help family and friends. The lawyer also sought bail on the grounds of parity as five co-accused in the case have already been enlarged on bail. He further refuted the allegations of blackmarketing or hoarding of the concentrators. On the allegation of poor working capacity of the concentrators, he said, It is not substandard. If it was substandard, why did Delhi police give it to COVID centres. This is a clear cut case of making somebody a scapegoat.
Pahwa also added that Bollywood actor Salman Khan also purchased the same oxygen concentrators. “My client has sold hundreds of concentrators and has received hundreds of messages thanking him," the lawyer added.
The court will now hear the arguments of Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava on the bail application on Saturday. 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 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.