Surya Pratap Singh. Photo: Twitter

By Asad Rizvi

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh police have registered an FIR against retired IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh for “spreading rumours” on social media after Singh tried to draw chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s attention towards alleged criminal neglect by some officials in Varanasi.

The 1982-batch retired IAS officer had tweeted about how the body of a patient who died of COVID-19 in a local government hospital was eventually reportedly fished out of a drain close to the hospital.

The patient was missing from the hospital for two days and his family members were looking for him. By sharing the video on social media, Singh sought to alert the chief minister that his visits to divisional headquarters now were not enough to contain the surge of COVID-19, he needed to do more.

On Twitter, Singh wrote that the state wants results and urged Adityanath, in a viral video, to work to reduce the grievances of poor people. Evidently, the chief minister took strong exception to Singh’s tweet, because it coincided with Adityanath’s visit to Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where he was holding a meeting to review the COVID-19 situation.

Varanasi additional DCP Vikas Chandra Tripathi told The Wire that the viral video shared by Singh was “fake and a year-old video clip”. Tripathi went on to add, “The police have registered a case against Surya Pratap Singh after a due magisterial inquiry.”

The FIR against Singh has been lodged with the Lanka police station of Varanasi under the Pandemic Act, Section 66 of the IT Act.

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.

Undaunted by the police action, the retired bureaucrat, who was known for his integrity and forthrightness, is sticking to his guns.

“The police is accusing me of showing an old video but the fact remains that they are not in a position to deny the truth, that is shown in the video. The cops have admitted that the video was shot during the first coronavirus wave in August 2020. Which law prevents you from posting a picture of a true incident that might have occurred a few months back?” Singh asked.

According to him, “It is quite apparent that the FIR against me has been lodged only because of my criticism, which the government of the day cannot tolerate.”

Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government had taken stern action against journalists who were critical of the mismanagement of COVID-19-related issues across the state. The Rae Bareli district administration had issued notices to three local reporters, and demanded information on the sources for a news article published on social media.

Their reports alleged that “20 metric tonnes” of medical oxygen were diverted from Rae Bareli to neighbouring Kanpur in the midst of a public health emergency in the district.

However, the Rae Bareli administration claimed that the allegations made in the news reports were “baseless and false”.

During the last week of April , the UP police threatened to file a criminal case against a man who used Twitter to appeal for an oxygen cylinder for his ailing grandfather.

In the state capital Lucknow, the police registered a case against a private hospital in Gomti Nagar on May 5 for allegedly spreading “false rumours” about the shortage of oxygen.The hospital was also accused of “hoarding” oxygen.

Amid reports of patients and hospitals struggling to find and maintain oxygen supply, Adityanath had asked officials on April 25 to take stern action under the National Security Act (NSA) and seize the property of individuals who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media. The Supreme Court, however, has categorically said that no police action should be taken against those posting SOS messages on social media.

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