Home >Companies >Jessop factory fire case: Pawan Ruia gets reprieve from Calcutta HC

The Ruia Group chairman Pawan Kumar Ruia on Wednesday won a reprieve from the Calcutta high court, which asked police not to take any “coercive action" against him immediately. Ruia, as the head of the group, faces charges of theft from the factory of Jessop and Co. Ltd, a closed engineering firm.

The Ruia Group also controls tyre maker Dunlop India Ltd, which too has suspended operations.

As many as 15 people, including a top Jessop official, have so far been arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the state police for theft and financial irregularities. On Wednesday, Ruia was asked to report at the CID headquarters in Kolkata, but he did not turn up.

Instead, he moved the Calcutta high court, saying that the charges against him were baseless and the investigation should be quashed. The court, however, refused to intervene in the CID probe but asked the police not to arrest Ruia, and the Ruia Group to cooperate with the investigating agency.

Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, lawyer for Ruia, said the state’s action “reeked of malfeasance". “The purpose is to harass an industrialist," he said, adding that the state government had already initiated the process of taking over Jessop and Dunlop.

In February, the West Bengal government had passed a bill in the state assembly to take over the two beleaguered enterprises but the administration has not been able to seize them from Ruia Group’s control as it does not have clearance from the Centre.

Key state government officials said the bills have not been cleared by the home ministry, but they have not been returned either. The officials asked not to be identified.

The administration took a firm stand on the alleged theft from Jessop’s factory in the northern fringes of Kolkata after a fire broke out there for the third time in close succession. Workers have for years been complaining that miscreants were stripping the factory of machines at the behest of the Ruia Group.

However, a spokesperson for Ruia denied the allegation, saying that the group itself has filed at least 90 complaints of theft with the police between July 2010 and May 2015, but the administration took no action. The Ruia Group even approached the Calcutta high court seeking its intervention in the matter, he added.

As instructed by the court, the factory was secured with a boundary wall, but the thefts still did not stop, according to the Ruia Group spokesperson.

A cabinet minister in the state said the Ruia Group is only trying to “discredit the government", which is set to take over the two firms.

“Why will the police provide permanent protection to a factory owned by a private firm?" he asked, adding that the Ruia Group refused to pay for permanent police protection as is the norm.

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