A Metropolitan Magistrate’s court in Delhi on Thursday (20/05/2021) rejected an application for extension of police custody for businessman Navneet Karla. The court placed the businessman accused in the Delhi oxygen concentrator hoarding and black-marketing case in 14 days of judicial custody.
Deputy Metropolitan Magistrate Akanksha Garg heard the matter.
Karla was arrested from a Gurugram farmhouse by the Delhi Police Crime Branch and placed on 3-day police custody to question and collect additional evidence. In its application for further custody of the accused, the Delhi Police submitted that mirror imaging of two mobile phones confiscated from the accused had not been completed. Also, the details from a laptop belonging to the accused are still being classified and recorded. It was also submitted that further interrogation of the accused is necessary to make sense of the documents.
The Additional Public Prosecutor A. Srivastava also argued that the transactions involved in the case are very complex, and replies are being awaited from as many as 23 banks. It was also submitted that other evidence has also been recovered, which needs to be further investigated.
Advocate Vinit Malhotra appearing for the accused argued that the evidence is already in possession of the investigation officer and that the accused's presence is unnecessary for further investigation.
The court, after hearing both sides observed that the allegations involved in the case are grave and have severe implications on society. The court observed that:
“In these testing times when utmost humanity and compassion have been exhibited by people a few miscreants in the society have resorted to vices like hoarding and black-marketing of essential drugs and medical equipment which could otherwise have averted so much death and destruction.”
But the court also delivered a note of caution by stating that:
“However, the Courts of law are not expected to be carried away by the public sentiment and therefore cannot authorise detention merely because some stringent and nonbailable sections have been slapped upon the accused by the prosecution. It is their sacrosanct responsibility to apply their judicial mind and delve into the said question deeply.”
The court observed that the further investigation of the case would not be affected if the accused is placed in judicial custody or even if he is let out on bail. The argument that the investigation is still in progress cannot be taken to curtail the rights of the accused. Thus, the court rejected the remand application and placed the accused in 14 days of judicial custody.
A bail application was also filed, but arguments on the matter could not take place. Further hearing on the bail application is posted for the 22nd May 2021.
During the first week of May, the Delhi Police had uncovered a hoard of 524 oxygen concentrators from three upscale hotels owned by Karla. In the initial raid at the famous Khan Chacha restaurant in Khan Market, 96 oxygen concentrators were recovered, and nine concentrators were recovered from the Town Hall restaurant. The last raid in Nege & Ju Restaurant and Bar in Lodhi Colony recovered 419 medical devices. Karla owns all three hotels.
It is alleged that the oxygen concentrators were imported from China by a private company and kept hoarded for sale in the black market owing to the high demand for the product in the worsening Covid situation in the capital.
It is alleged that the accused were charging as high as Rs 70,000 for the oxygen concentrators, which in the open market costs around Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000.
The accused is charged under sections 420 (cheating), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 120B (Criminal Conspiracy) and 34 (Acts done in common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 3 and 7 the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.