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Supreme Court Reserves Orders On Plea By Skoda Volkswagen Challenging FIR On Allegation Of Emission Cheating

Mehal Jain
4 Nov 2020 8:40 AM GMT
Supreme Court Reserves Orders On Plea By Skoda Volkswagen Challenging FIR On Allegation Of Emission Cheating
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its orders on a petition filed by Skoda Volkswagen India Pvt Ltd challenging an FIR registered in UP over alleged cheat emission devices installed in the cars."In December, 2015, a lady made a complaint against Volkwagen in NGT. In 2018, the persons came to be largely exonerated. Despite that, in March, 2019, a penalty was imposed on Volkswagen, which...

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its orders on a petition filed by Skoda Volkswagen India Pvt Ltd challenging an FIR registered in UP over alleged cheat emission devices installed in the cars.

"In December, 2015, a lady made a complaint against Volkwagen in NGT. In 2018, the persons came to be largely exonerated. Despite that, in March, 2019, a penalty was imposed on Volkswagen, which was stayed by Your Lordships on May 6, 2019", began Senior Advocate A. M. Singhvi for the petitioner.
"I know, I was party to that order. But what has that got to do with the criminal prosecution?", asked CJ S. A. Bobde.
"The vehicle was purchased in 2018. For 2.5 years, there were no complaints or representations made to us. In connection with the NGT matter, we had come to the SC and there was immediate stay. While the matter is pending, this FIR was lodged where the allegations are same as the application before the NGT, the earlier complaint!", argued Dr. Singhvi.
"We have read all this. But why should the trial not go on? NGT will not determine the correctness of your action", asked the CJ again.
"There are only two allegations- cheat device and environmental damage...the same issues on which the NGT order was stayed, now the FIR has been filed. Till such time the SC considers, how can a new complaint start?", Dr. Singhiv continued.
"A criminal complaint is where the citizen says I have been cheated by the accused. A general order in relation to machine/motor will not decide that. The NGT order is a general one on the cheap device installed in the car. This is an in-personam proceeding saying that I have been cheated, I was told that there is no device in the car but it was there", noted the CJ.
"One lot of cars sold to the complainant has these devices. Maybe the dealer had installed them, we don't know. How will the general order deal with this?", he asked.
Referring to the 1987 order of the SC in Sardool Singh, Dr. Singhvi cited that it was the opinion of the court that where the civil court is seized of the validity of the will and the matter is sub-judice, no criminal prosecution can commence on the allegation that the will was forced.
"That was a different case. There was the same will in both the civil and criminal proceedings. Here, there are different cars. Can there not be a different car with different features and a cheat devise inserted? The allegation may be the same but the NGT was on a particular car which the complainant had bought... ('NGT was also on the engine. They are not a particular car but on the generic allegation of the engine. The complainant in the NGT earlier and the complainant now are on the same allegation as to the engine', advanced Dr. Singhvi)...the same kind of engine may also be fitted differently...we don't prima facie agree with you ", observed the CJ.
"Is criminal prosecution fair at this stage when they didn't complain for over 2 years? Your Lordships consider the issue and the matter can restart after 2 years?", pressed Dr. Singhvi.
"They have accused officers here and outside also- Germany, Indonesia and all over the world!", he continued.
"There are many procedures by which you can secure yourself...we know that Volkswagen is a legendary motor vehicle manufacturer, we are admirers of it, we have had the highest respect for it since World War II...but you are wrong on the stage at which you are coming here", observed the CJ.
Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, for the complainant, submitted, "I have been personally cheated. The NGT is only on the environmental damage and the cheap device. It cannot conduct an investigation into my 7 cars! The civil and criminal proceedings, if maintainable, should be allowed to go on! 27 billion penalty has been imposed in 17 countries! They have been prosecuted all over the world! ('This is irrelevant', said the CJ)...and here, the HC kindly granted stay against arrest to them..."


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