Delhi Court Rejects Plea Seeking Police Custody of Navneet Kalra 

Navneet Kalra broke down during the hearing, and said that even police had received oxygen concentrators from him.

3 min read
Navneet Kalra, who owns Khan Chacha and Town Hall restaurants in Delhi.

A Delhi Court on Saturday, 22 May, rejected a plea moved by Delhi Police seeking further police custody of Khan Chacha owner Navneet Kalra, in a case alleging hoarding of oxygen concentrators.

While denying further police custody, Metropolitan Magistrate Vasundhara Azad noted that as per the facts and circumstances involved in the case, policy custody was not warranted. 

Kalra was arrested by the police on the evening of 16 May from his brother-in-law’s farmhouse in Gurugram. He was, thereafter, remanded to three days' police custody.

A case was filed under Sections 3 and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, among other provision of law against Kalra, after the Delhi Police recovered oxygen concentrators from "Khan Chacha" and other restaurants owned by him.

The police claimed that the imported concentrators were being sold in the black market amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He was sent to 14-day judicial custody in the case by the Metropolitan Magistrate after it opined that no case was made out for further extension of police custody.

The Proceedings

During the proceedings, Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) Atul Shrivastav, appearing for the Delhi police, sought Kalra's custody on the grounds that he needs to be confronted with mobile phone data and bank account details which have become available.

“Right from the very beginning, we have been asking for PC remand to confront the accused with mobile details. Some of the WhatsApp screenshots are available with us, asking for refunds because the concentrators supplied were not working.”
Atul Shrivastav 

The APP also claimed that AIIMS doctors had, after examining the concentrators recovered from Kalra's premises, given the expert opinion that the devices supplied by him were useless.

Advocate Vineet Malhotra, appearing for Kalra, opposed the argument stating that the defendant does not manufacture or import any oxygen concentrators. He got 700 of them from the producer, Matrix, and the same were stored in his premises for distribution to some friends, relatives and customers.

He also submitted that Kalra himself had given his bank account details to the police before the arrest.

Regarding the allegation that the concentrators were subpar in quality, Malhotra said that the police, after recovering the same, supplied 450 of them to COVID care centres.

“Same machines have been sold by Matrix to SpiceJet airline. 250 of the same brand of concentrators were procured by Salman Khan... Kalra has been made a scapegoat.”
Vineet Malhotra

Further, Malhotra also said that there was no misrepresentation regarding the quality of the concentrators since they delivered what they represented as its oxygen capacity.

Kalra's Own Narrative

During the hearing, the court also allowed Kalra to put across his narrative. Kalra had joined the hearing through video conferencing.

While explaining his story, Kalra started to choke up, and said:

“Police have also got concentrators from me. I am not a manufacturer or importer of these machines. I have so many messages saying machines bought from me saved lives. I also replaced machines in three or four cases when it was pointed out that they were defective.”
Navneet Kalra

Kalra further asked the court as to why APP Shrivastav is not speaking about positive messages on my phone and is instead focusing only on old messages.

At this moment, the court decided to decline the plea for further police custody while posting Kalra's bail application for hearing on the coming Tuesday.


ED Books Kalra For Money Laundering

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), on 20 May, had registered a case of money laundering against Kalra.

An ED official said that the agency booked him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

He said that the agency has also taken the case documents from the Delhi Police, who arrested Kalra on Sunday evening.

The official said that the agency will check all the financial transactions of Kalra, who owns Khan Chacha, and Town Hall restaurant in the upscale Khan Market area and Nege and Ju bar and restaurant in Lodhi Garden's Central Market.

(With Inputs From Bar & Bench)

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