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HC dismisses Matrix Cellular’s plea to release oxygen concentrators seized by police

The Delhi High Court has dismissed Matrix Cellular Services’ plea for 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.

Justice Yogesh Khanna, while denying any relief to the company, further said that it had allegedly sold the concentrators at huge profit margins “in contravention of laws, rules and executive orders”.

The court also said that the 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.”

“A conjoint reading of the FIR, invoices and receipts produced by the petitioner (Matrix) along with the fact that the seized oxygen concentrators were allegedly sold at a huge profit margins in contravention of laws, rules and executive orders…

“The facts show the petitioner was engaged in selling untested oxygen concentrators to people desperate for these devices and at an 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,” the court said.

It also said that prima facie the company’s act was “in violation of an office memorandum, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India, dated June 29, 2020 which had directed the petitioners and others like him, selling oxygen concentrators, to not increase prices of oxygen concentrators by more than 10 per cent of the maximum retail price in a year of the Drugs Pricing Control Order, 2013”.

The court also noted in its order that the “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”.

It further said that since the investigation was at an initial stage, therefore, it was another reason why the relief sought by the company cannot be granted.

The court, however, directed the police to put identification marks on the seized concentrators and to keep their colour photographs for future reference.

With the direction, the court dismissed Matrix Cellular’s plea for release of 419 oxygen concentrators seized from its premises.

The company had claimed the seizure was illegal.

Four employees of Matrix Cellular company, including its CEO and vice president, were arrested in a case of black marketing of oxygen concentrators and are presently out on bail.

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