In some respite to India's cheapest smartphone makers, the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday granted interim relief to Ringing Bells Pvt Ltd - the Noida-based firm that created a global buzz after announcing the launch of the controversial Freedom 251, a Rs. 251 smartphone, last month.
While hearing the plea, the division bench of Justice B.K. Narayan and Justice Shashi Kant ordered the UP state government to furnish a status report on an urgent basis by April 5, further directing that no coercive steps be taken till then against the three top accused - directors Mohit Goel and Dharna Garg and president Ashok Chadha.
A first information report (FIR) was registered last week against Goel and company president Ashok Chaddha under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Information Technology (IT) Act on a complaint filed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya.
The court also directed the petitioners to submit their passports to SSP Noida within 24 hours.
According to lawyer Abhishek Vikram representing Ringing Bells, the three petitioners will "fully comply with the orders of the court by submitting their passport and will provide full cooperation to the investigation agency".
"We have nothing to hide. We are committed to affordable smartphones to people of this country and we shall achieve that. We will stick to fair practices and comply with regulations of our great country," Mohit Goel, director, Ringing Bells, told IANS.
"We remain committed to cooperate with any government agency that may need to inquire our organisation for any reason or suspicion. We have already done so with authorities/agencies that have so required," Goel added.
"I do maintain that we will deliver the most affordable quality products to our customers through our range of smartphones including Freedom 251," Goel added.
Ringing Bells launched the product last month in the presence of veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi.
It distributed some "prototypes" of the product to the media which turned out to be Adcom handsets. However, the company maintained that the device has been developed "with immense support" from the government.
According to the company, Freedom 251 will run on Android 5.1 Lollipop, sport a 4-inch qHD IPS display, a 3.2-megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3-megapixel front camera.
However, doubts were raised after assessments of the viability of the handset found that such a device cannot be offered for less than Rs. 2,300 - Rs. 2,400.
Ringing Bells had received 30,000 orders on the first day.
The rest of the customers for the first 2.5 million handsets were to be selected on first-come-first-served basis as the company received about 70 million registrations before the payment gateway crashed.
Later, the company decided to return the money to the customers who pre-booked the Rs. 251 device on the first day of the sale, and promised cash on delivery to them.