O2 concentrator case: Booking manufacturers and importers counterproductive, will create scarcity in medical devices, says Delhi court while granting bail to four accused

A Delhi court Wednesday granted bail to four persons arrested for the alleged black marketing of oxygen concentrators while observing that booking manufacturers and importers without any evidence was counterproductive and shall create a “further scarcity of already scarce medical devices”.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arun Kumar Garg granted bail to the accused Matrix Cellular Services Ltd CEO Gaurav Khanna and Vice-President Gaurav Suri; along with business development executive Vikrant and Deputy General Manager, Satish Sethi.

The accused were granted bail after furnishing personal bond and surety bond in sum of Rs. 50,000 each. The court will on Thursday pronounce the bail order of the fifth accused in the case, Hitesh.

The court said that despite repeated directions by Delhi High Court, “the government is not coming forward to cap the price of essential medical devices” nor any “regulation has been made by the government for sale of the same by the importers to the government” for its “equitable distribution to the needy persons for reasons best known to the government”.

“Mere booking of the manufacturers/importers under the criminal law without a regulatory regime in place and without any evidence just to show that the state is concerned about the problems of citizens in procurement of life saving medical devices, in my considered opinion, will be counter-productive and shall create a further scarcity of already scarce medical devices as it will discourage the manufacturers and importers from pushing their resources so as to make the essential medical devices available to the needy citizens,” the court said.

The court clarified that it “should not be construed that this court has any sympathy with the black marketers and hoarders of the essential medicines/medical devices, however, the vacuum in the law needs to be filled up by the legislature or for that matter by the executive by issuing appropriate regulations.”

The court in its order wrote that the investigating officer (IO) had looked for the notifications during investigation, meaning that the Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act was invoked in the FIR “without the IO being sure about the existence of any such notification.”

“Once again, such an approach on the part of police to book a person first and to look for the law later on, can’t at all be appreciated particularly when it amounts to curtailment of the fundamental right of liberty of a citizen,” the court said.

The court said that “no prima facie case under section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the IPC is made out against the accused at least from the contents of the FIR”. The court said that “there is no mention in the entire case diary about any social media post or any other aggrieved person coming forward with the complaint against the accused at least in the case diaries.”

Furthermore, the court also clarified that, the IO is free to continue the investigation “without being influenced by the aforesaid observations which only records the opinion of this court”.

The accused have been booked under Sections related to cheating, Epidemic Diseases Act, and Essential Commodities Act.

Police said they had recovered 524 concentrators from two top restaurants — Town Hall and Khan Chacha — in Khan Market, Nege Ju in Lodhi Colony, and Matrix’s warehouse in Chhatarpur’s Mandi Village. All the restaurants are owned by businessman Navneet Kalra.