The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order on the Skoda Volkswagen India’s appeal seeking quashing of an FIR registered in Uttar Pradesh over alleged emission cheat devices installed in its cars. A Bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde refused to grant a stay, but during the hearing acknowledged “the legendary nature of Volkswagen. We are admirers of Volkswagen cars and its rich history even predates World War-1, but the case here isn’t related,” the CJI said, asking the car manufacturer as to “why should the trial not go on?” The Allahabad High Court had in October dismissed the Volkswagen India’s plea for quashing of an FIR dated July 10 registered against it in Noida for installing “cheat devices” in its vehicles. However, it had directed that the company official shall not be arrested in the case till the submission of the police report, subject to the restraint that he shall co-operate with the investigation and shall appear as and when called upon to assist in the investigation.
Senior Advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Volkswagen India, submitted before the SC that the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) slapping a fine on the manufacturer over the cheat devices had been stayed by the Supreme Court earlier in 2019 and the new FIR is also based on similar allegations that are now sub-judice in the apex court, he said. The NGT had on March 7 last year-imposed damages and enhanced amount of compensation amounting to Rs 500 crore against the company on a finding that a ‘cheat device’ had been installed by it during laboratory tests in its vehicles which showed lower emissions.
Volkswagen India further argued that multiple FIRs, with identical complaints, are based on generic claims. Singhvi also claimed that the company was exonerated by a committee set up by the NGT in another similar FIR filed in 2015. However, the CJI said that if there is a general order of the NGT on motors, it won’t determine if a citizen has been cheated. “Criminal complaint is where a citizen says he has been cheated by the accused — the same kind of engine may be differently fitted, everyone knows about it. The NGT order is not about a particular car bought by the complainant, but about the engines. How can a general order of stay on the NGT’s order prevent FIR based on a personal complaint?” Bobde questioned Singhvi. The allegation in NGT was that the engines in Volkswagen cars have cheat devices and caused environmental damage and the FIR names its officers in India and abroad, Singhvi said.
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