Oxygen supply scam accused seeks FIR quashing, Bombay High Court sees no urgency

The Bombay High Court issued a notice to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police to reply to a plea for quashing an FIR registered against Romin Chheda who is said to be close to Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aditya Thackeray.

However, the bench of Justices Ajay Gadkari and Shyam Chandak refused to grant any immediate hearing to Chheda’s plea and said that “it is a serious offence.”

Advocate Aabad Ponda appearing for Chheda had sought that the court give an early hearing. However, the bench said, “What is the urgency in this? Let them (EOW) investigate.”

The bench has decided to hear the petition in third week of March. Ponda persisted and said that the chargesheet would get filed by then. However, Justice Gadkari said, “Let it be, it is a serious offence.”

An FIR was registered against Chheda for an alleged oxygen cylinder scam during the Covid pandemic.

Chheda had approached the court seeking quashing of the FIR registered in Mumbai which is under investigation by the EOW and is the predicate offence for a case registered by the Enforcement Directorate.

Chedda was arrested on November 24 by the EOW and is currently in judicial custody.

He is a power of attorney holder for the state of Maharashtra for Highway Construction Company (HCC) which is at the centre of the entire investigation. The allegation against HCC is of alleged fraud in setting up oxygen plants in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The allegation is also that the contract to set up oxygen plants in nine civic hospitals and two jumbo Covid centres was given to HCC despite it allegedly not having any prior experience of executing such work.

Another accusation in the FIR claims that since Chheda did not complete the construction of the oxygen plants within the stipulated time, to save the company from paying fine, the accused made fake documents of completion of the plants and submitted them to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Chedda’s ground for seeking relief is that the allegations in the FIR pertain to alleged miscalculation of penalty imposed by the civic body and added that this entire allegation can only be in the nature of a civil or contractual liability with no criminal angle whatsoever.

He claimed that a penalty notice for Rs. 3,16,32,426 was imposed on HCC which has been deducted from its final bill.

Calling the allegations in the FIR as “false, absurd and bizarre,” the plea also pointed out that not a single civic official had been named in it, nor has been arrested.

Chedda also pointed out that he had cooperated with the investigators when he was picked up without a notice by the police and thus harped on the argument of illegal arrest.

Published By:

Poorva Joshi

Published On:

Dec 21, 2023

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