New Delhi– The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Skoda Volkswagen (VW) India Pvt Ltd why shouldn’t the trial against it go on following an FIR registered in Uttar Pradesh over alleged ‘cheat devices’ installed in its cars to report lesser emissions.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the German car-maker, submitted that in March 2019, a penalty was imposed on VW by the National Green Tribunal, which was stayed by the top court.
To this, Chief Justice S.A. Bobde replied: “I know, I was party to that order. But what that has to do with the criminal prosecution?”
Singhvi then said that in the case now, the vehicle was bought in 2018, and for nearly two and a half years, there were no complaints. “While the NGT matter was pending, this FIR was lodged.. where the allegations are same as the application before the NGT,” he argued.
However, the Chief Justice asked: “But, why should the trial not go on? The NGT will not determine the correctness of your action.”
Singhvi said there are two allegations – installation of the cheat device and environmental damage caused and citing the stay on NGT order, asked: “How can a new complaint start?”
The bench, which also comprised Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, noted that a criminal complaint was filed as the citizen says that he has been cheated and the NGT is a general order on cheat devices.
“I (a citizen says) was told that there is no device in the car but it was there,” observed Chief Justice Bobde, telling Singhvi that prima facie, the court does not agree with him.
But Singhvi insisted, asking if a criminal prosecution at this stage was fair, adding that the FIR also accuses officers outside India.
Noting that they were admirers of VW, as it is a legendary motor vehicle manufacturer, and they have had the highest respect for it since World War II, the Chief Justice told Singhvi that he was “wrong at the stage” he was moving the court.
But as Singhvi reiterated if it was fair to drag the company into a criminal complaint, senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the complainant, submitted that the investigations in the FIR should go on and cited that High Court has granted stay against the arrest to them (company officials).
After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court reserved the order on quashing of the FIR against VW. (IANS)