Breaking News Oxygen Concentrators Black Marketing Case: Release of seized equipment...

Oxygen Concentrators Black Marketing Case: Release of seized equipment sought, SC issues notice


New Delhi, Jun 29 (ILNS)The Supreme Court today issued Notice to the Delhi police and others, on a plea by Matrix Cellular (International) Services Private Limited challenging the Delhi HC judgment which had dismissed its appeal to release the Oxygen Concentrators seized by the Delhi Police amid the Covid pandemic.

The three-Judge bench of Justices R.F. Nariman, K.M. Joseph and B.R. Gavai after hearing Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing on behalf of the Matrix Cellular, issued notice to the Delhi Police and sought their reply.

Mr Rohatgi submitted that the High Court has not considered the plea regarding the release of seizure of Rs. 3.5 crore worth of medical equipment and there was no law that fixed the price of oxygen concentrators at the time of FIR. It was further stated that the FIR was lodged on May 5, 2021 and during that time there was no bar at selling them at higher prices. He went on to say that the company had brought the items from abroad and all kinds of taxes were paid by them before selling.

He further said that if there is no price fixation then there is no matter of black marketing and hoarding. The senior advocate requested the bench to allow a short notice period so that the medical equipment seized can be released soon. He also stated that the High Court’s order was merely a reflection of the situation and sentiments involved due to the loss of human life during the second wave.      

In the same case, earlier this year, the accused and owner of Khan Chacha restaurant Navneet Kalra, and directors of Matrix were granted bail. They were arrested under Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act, under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act and Section 420/188/ 120B/34 IPC was registered at police station Lodhi Colony.

It was noted by the High Court that during the course of investigation, at the instance of accused persons, 387 oxygen concentrators; 112 boxes containing KN-95 marks, 95 Oximeter were recovered from Matrix Cellular International Services Private Limited and sold at higher prices at the profit of Rs. 40,000/- to 42,000/- per piece.

The arguments before the High Court were that despite the FIR being registered on may o5, 2021, the entire seized material was sent to the Deputy Commissioner and not to a local Magistrate hence they have no remedy under Section 451 or 457 Cr P C to move an appropriate application before the and since the seizure is illegal, the remedy is only to file a Writ under Article 226 of the Constitution.

It was further observed that seized items were found under suspicious circumstances where individuals were in alleged violation of the Covid-19 lockdown measures imposed at that time, and accordingly, police was authorised to seize the oxygen concentrators lying at the spot. The registration of the FIR was not mandatory for search and seizure under Section 102 CrPC.

It was further observed the act of the accused was in violation of an Office Memorandum, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers dated 29th June which had directed the sellers not to increase prices of oxygen concentrators by more than 10% of the maximum retail price in a year of the Drugs Pricing Control Order, 2013. All manufacturers / importers were directed to ensure compliance of the provisions of DPCO failing which action may be initiated for violation of provisions of DPCO read with the EC Act.

The facts also show the alleged were engaged in selling untested oxygen concentrators to people desperate for these devices that too at exorbitant prices through false representations, especially, when the State and the whole country saw an unprecedented surge of covid-19 infections and severe lack of oxygen cylinders and/or concentrators.

It was also observed by the High Court that the relief sought qua release of seized oxygen concentrators is in conflict with the orders passed by the Division Bench in Venkateshwar Hospital case and also Bram Health Care Private Limited case wherein it is directed whenever any drugs etc. used in treatment of Covid-19 are seized by the authorities or Delhi Police, they shall, without any delay inform the District Magistrate, who shall take the necessary steps to ascertain genuineness of the drugs etc. and pass orders for release of the same before the items seized are rendered unusable.

The High Court at last observed that the investigation is at initial stage and the reliefs sought cannot be granted by the High Court, except the concentrators so seized be put an identification mark(s) and its coloured photographs be kept for future reference, by the respondent./ ILNS/KR/AS/SNG

Supreme Court today issued notice on a petition filed by Matrix Cellular (International) Services Private Limited, challenging the Delhi High Court judgement, which had dismissed its appeal to release the Oxygen Concentrators seized by Delhi Police, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Matrix Cellular, submitted “No prices are fixed, then how can it be a case of black marketing? It’s like lawyers, if prices are not fixed, then they will charge whatever they want.

“I have sold every item with GST. I have sold it to people. Kindly check the DPCO. No MRP was fixed in regard to concentrators. Only thing was a bar in selling the quantity.

“The High Court is relying on the later order of DB. If there is no price, there can’t be black marketing,’ added Mr Rohatgi.

Justice Nariman- Have you taken it to HC.

Rohatgi- I have brought it from abroad, taxes are paid, gst is paid, I will sell it as I want.

Rohatgi- High court is saying we are hoarding, they have finding against me, the magistrate has sealed my concentrators worth 3.5 crores, it has become the case property now. If there is no price fixation there is no matter of black marketing and hoarding.

Justice Nariman- alright Mr. Rohatgi we will issue notice. 3 weeks.


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