The Uttar Pradesh Police have registered a first information report against a retired Indian Administrative Service officer Surya Pratap Singh for allegedly spreading rumours on social media, The Wire reported on Tuesday.
Singh had shared a video on Twitter, criticising Chief Minister Adityanath about his handling of the coronavirus crisis in the state.
“Yogi ji [Adityanath], travelling here and there will not work, results are also needed,” he had said in the tweet, reported News18. “You are taking a review meeting in Varanasi today, kindly listen to the grievance of the poor. The body of a Covid-19 patient admitted at this hospital in Varanasi was found in a drain. The family was searching for him for the last two days.”
Varanasi Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Vikas Chandra Tripathi told The Wire that the video Singh shared was a year-old video that was “fake”. “The police have registered a case against Surya Pratap Singh after a due magisterial inquiry,” Tripathi said.
Singh has also been booked under sections 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 505 (statements conducing public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.
A day later on Monday, Singh tweeted that an FIR was lodged against him for sharing a “true incident”, which happened in Varanasi. “Accusation is: ‘Indecent [incident] happened earlier, how was it tweeted today’?” the retired IAS officer tweeted, along with a media report about the incident concerned. “Your only trouble is why I am asking questions on oxygen.”
According to the report by Aaj Tak that Singh shared, the incident took place in August. The body of a coronavirus patient admitted to the Banaras Hindu University had gone missing and was found in a sewer. The relatives of the patient had accused the hospital administration of stealing the kidney of their kin.
Singh has been tweeting since then about the government’s handling of the crisis and the FIR lodged against him. On Monday, he tweeted about the alleged scarcity of oxygen in Lucknow.
“Note: The video may be a couple of days old, please do not waste the time of police and administration by prosecuting me one more time,” he tweeted, taking a dig at the Uttar Pradesh government.
In another tweet on Tuesday, the retired IAS officer wondered if when the police register a case of “fake news”, they must feel guilty about it.
Similar incidents of police registering cases against residents for speaking about the coronavirus situation in the states have been reported. Earlier in May, the Rae Bareli district administration had issued notices to three journalists, seeking information on the sources for a news article that were published and posted on social media, reported The Indian Express.
In April, the Uttar Pradesh had police filed a criminal case against a man who used Twitter to appeal for an oxygen cylinder for his grandfather. Though the man had not mentioned if his grandfather had the coronavirus, the police filed an FIR against him for allegedly circulating a rumour with the intent to cause fear or alarm. The police had claimed that the grandfather of the accused did not require oxygen for medical purposes.
The FIR against Surya Pratap Singh was filed even after the Supreme Court had said that governments should not curb the voices on social media either calling out for medical help or conveying their grievances during the coronavirus pandemic.
The court said that it would treat such clampdown as contempt of court. “Clampdown of information is contrary to basic precepts,” it said.