Court turns down plea for police interrogation of 'Khan Chacha' owner for second time

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New Delhi, May 22 (PTI) A court here on Saturday dismissed the plea of Delhi Police seeking five more days of custodial interrogation of businessman Navneet Kalra in connection with the alleged hoarding and black marketing of oxygen concentrators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During a recent raid, 524 oxygen concentrators were recovered from Khan Chacha, Town Hall, and Nege & Ju restaurants owned by Kalra. The businessman was nabbed from Gurugram on May 16 night and formally arrested the next day. “In my considered opinion, police custody remand is not warranted. Application is dismissed,” said Metropolitan Magistrate Vasundhra Azad. This is the second time the court has rejected the police remand application. Earlier, a similar application was junked by a different judge on May 20 and Kalra was sent to 14-day judicial custody. Prior to this, the restaurateur was remanded to three days in police custody following his arrest. During the course of proceedings, Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava sought Kalra's custody on the grounds that he is to be confronted with mobile data, bank details and certain persons to unearth the nexus. Kalra, who was produced before the court virtually through Mandoli jail, told the court that he is being implicated in the case because he is famous. He also claimed to have supplied the oxygen concentrators to police officers. “Because I am famous, they are trying to put it on me. I am not the manufacturer. I took machines from Matrix (company) to facilitate them to friends and family. Police also bought machines for COVID-19 centres from me. People have messaged me saying timely help saved lives,” he said. The businessman further apprised the court, “Police are saying that there are 23 accounts where the money was received but I only have one account where money was received through real-time gross settlement (RTGS).” Kalra's counsel Vineet Malhotra told the court that his custodial interrogation is not required anymore. “Police application was dismissed by the last judge. This is total abuse of the law.” While rejecting the police remand application on May 20, Metropolitan Magistrate Akanksha Garg had noted that no fruitful purpose would be served by extending the police custody and that the courts of law are not expected to be carried away by public sentiment.

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. PTI AAK SMN SMN

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