The Lucknow Police on Friday booked around 2,500 Samajwadi Party workers for allegedly violating the model code of conduct and Covid-19 protocol during a virtual rally, reported ANI. The First Information Report was registered against them at the Gautampali police station, said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Aparna Rajat Kaushik.

Hundreds of supporters had turned up at the party office at Vikramaditya Marg to attend a “virtual rally’” addressed by party chief Akhilesh Yadav and former Cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya. The latter’s exit from the Bharatiya Janata Party has triggered an exodus. Maurya along with former minister Dharam Singh Saini and five MLAs joined the Samajwadi Party on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India directed that Dinesh Singh Bisht, the station house officer of Gautampalli police station, be suspended for dereliction of duty, reported The Indian Express. The commission also said that Additional Commissioner of Police Akhilesh Singh and Returning Officer of the Lucknow Central Assembly Govind Maurya need to submit an explanation by 11 am on Saturday.

The Election Commission has banned political rallies, gatherings, meetings and road shows in five poll-bound states till January 15 amid a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lucknow Commissioner of Police DK Thakur told India Today that the FIR was filed after they procured video evidence of the gathering. “We received information on social media about crowds gathering outside the SP office and sent police personnel to clear the crowds,” he added.

The FIR was lodged on the complaint of sub-inspector Ajay Kumar Singh. “Videography was done, whoever is marked in the video will also be booked,” the police said.

The party workers have been booked under sections 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 341 (wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code, and relevant provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act and the Disaster Management Act.

Samajwadi Party’s Uttar Pradesh unit chief Naresh Uttam Patel said that the workers came on their own. “It was a virtual event inside our party office,” he added. “We didn’t call anyone but people came. People work abiding by Covid protocols.”