SC dismisses Skoda Volkswagen’s plea to quash FIR for alleged use of cheat device in car

This February 14, 2019 file photo shows the Volkswagen logo.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea to quash an FIR registered against a company dealing with the business operations of luxury car brands for allegedly “duping” a customer.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde refused the plea filed by Skoda Auto Volkswagen India Pvt. Ltd. — which handles brands such as Skoda, Volkswagen and Audi — in a judgment. The FIR was based on a complaint filed by a customer in U.P. He claimed he had bought seven Audi cars from authorised dealers who had assured him there were no cheat devices in the cars to manipulate the effectiveness of emission controls. He later found the NOx emissions high and had to pay a hefty fine.

In the appeal, the company said the customer had bought three and not seven cars. Besides, he was late by nearly three years to file his complaint. The judgment, authored by Justice V. Ramasubramanian, said these were disputed questions of fact and had to be proved in trial. Besides, delay cannot be a ground to quash an FIR.

Also read: Don’t sell vehicles with ‘cheat device’: NGT to Volkswagen

Next, the company argued that the apex court was already seized of civil appeals concerning the use of ‘cheat devices’. The company cannot be made to face criminal proceedings while these appeals were still pending in the highest court.

These civil appeals in the apex court had stemmed from a show-cause notice issued by the government’s Automotive Research Association of India in 2015.

The Association had said that vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen, when tested on road, indicated 3-9 times more NOx pollution compared with tests carried out in the laboratory on Modified Indian Driving Cycle (MIDC). It was also alleged that Diesel EA 189 engines fitted in BS-IV vehicles were equipped with ‘defeat devices’.

The challenge to the show-cause notice had gone to the National Green Tribunal. The tribunal, in 2019, had concluded that the manufacturers do indeed use ‘cheat devices’ and the NOx emission was high. The tribunal had found the manufacturers liable to pay damages to the tune of ₹500 crore.

The manufacturers had appealed to the apex court.

Justice Ramasubramanian said the series of events which led to the manufacturers’ civil appeals against the NGT decision were part of a “global outrage” against the environmental damage caused by cars allegedly fitted with ‘manipulative devices’.

The court said the individual case to quash an FIR registered against the company in Gautam Budh Nagar and the civil appeals pending against the NGT decision of 2019 cannot be linked to each other.

“We are unable to agree that the substratum of the police complaint is something that is already the subject matter of adjudication before this court in the appeals arising out of the order of the NGT,” Justice Ramasubramanian observed, dismissing the company’s appeal to quash the FIR registered against it.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 8:26:11 AM |

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