The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to provide interim protection to businessman Navneet Kalra who is accused of hoarding and black marketing oxygen concentrators used to treat severely ill Covid patients, Bar and Bench reported.

Kalra, the owner of famous eateries in Delhi, has been on the run since the police first raided his properties. He had moved the High Court after a sessions court refused to grant him anticipatory bail on the grounds that his custodial investigation was required to “unearth the entire conspiracy”.

“I am persuaded by the reasons given by the trial court which is a valid ground for me not to grant any interim protection now,” the bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad said. The court then adjourned the matter for further hearing on May 18 after Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Delhi Police, sought time to file their response in the case.

As many as 524 concentrators were seized last week from registered offices and restaurants owned by Kalra in South Delhi’s Khan Market, Lodhi Colony and Chhattarpur area. A first information report was registered and four people – Hitesh Prakash, Gaurav Singh, Satish Sethi and Vikrant Singh – were arrested during the raids. The accused were booked under Indian Penal Code sections of cheating, Essential Commodities Act and Epidemic Diseases Act.

During the High Court hearing on Friday, Kalra’s lawyers, Abhishek M Singhvi and Vikas Pahwa, urged the court to grant some interim protection if the matter was going to be adjourned till May 18. Singhvi told the court that the police were actively searching for Kalra and were visiting the homes of his relatives and close friends, according to PTI.

The advocate contended that in the absence of a government order capping the price of oxygen concentrators, Kalra could not be said to be in violation of the Essential Commodities Act. “It is only fair that the matter is not made infructuous till Monday ... I’m not in a begging game here. I’m on my right,” he told the court, according to Bar and Bench.

Singhvi contended that the present case did not pertain to an offence that could not be investigated without an arrest. “You are catching me on overpricing when you have not fixed the price,” he said on behalf of Kalra. “Is this case the case to arrest?”