Seizure of oxygen concentrators: SC agrees to hear Matrix's plea against HC order

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New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea filed by Matrix Cellular (International) Services Pvt Ltd challenging the Delhi High Court order which had dismissed its petition seeking release of its oxygen concentrators seized by the police amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman issued notice to Delhi Police seeking its response on the plea which has also sought stay on the high court’s May 27 order.

“Issue notice, returnable in three weeks,” said the bench, also comprising Justices K M Joseph and B R Gavai.

The high court had dismissed the company's plea seeking release of its seized oxygen concentrators, saying it sold 'untested' equipment to desperate people at exorbitant prices by making false representations at a time when there was a surge in COVID-19 cases and severe lack of oxygen supply for patients.

In its plea filed in the apex court, the company has said that it was conducting a “legal and valid business” of transacting in oxygen concentrators and had not breached any provisions under applicable law.

“Because there is no ceiling price prescribed by the government in relation to oxygen concentrators even as on date of filing of the present petition and as such, the allegations of ‘exorbitant’ rates cannot possibly be levelled on the petitioner,” it said.

The plea alleged that the high court order contains “absolutist remarks and findings on the merits” of the matter despite the investigation being at a preliminary stage and has the effect of “colouring” a free and fair investigation into the matter.

“As such, unless the impugned order is immediately stayed, the same will directly impact a free and fair investigation into the matter and the petitioner’s rights in relation to the same,” it said.

The high court, while denying any relief to the company, had said that it had allegedly sold the concentrators at huge profit margins 'in contravention of laws, rules and executive orders'.

The high court had also said that oxygen concentrators being a lifesaving machine was a drug as defined under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and therefore, 'there appears to be no illegality in the act of respondent (police), especially when the state was reeling in acute shortage of drugs, cylinders, concentrators and attendants of patients were running from pillar to post, ready to part with their life savings for its purchase'.

The company had claimed the seizure was illegal.

Four employees of the firm were arrested in the case of alleged black marketing of oxygen concentrators and are presently out on bail. PTI ABA MNL SJK SA

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