DELHI POLICE Thursday arrested nine persons for allegedly pasting posters with comments critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the Covid vaccination drive and lodged 10 FIRs across several districts in connection with the matter.
On Friday, in a separate move, the Delhi Police Crime Branch visited the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) office to question its chief Srinivas B V, who has been at the forefront of Covid relief efforts, in connection with alleged “illegal distribution of Covid medicines, etc”.
Police said four of the arrests made on Thursday were from East Delhi’s Kalyanpuri, and that the men were pasting posters on behalf of AAP councillor Dhirender Kumar. While police said Kumar’s alleged role would be probed, the councillor said he was not aware of any such allegations against him.
A senior officer said they received information that posters that read “Modi ji humare bachon ki vaccine videsh kyon bhej diya (Why did you send our children’s vaccines abroad?)” had been pasted in several areas of Delhi.
“Acting on this input, all district police officers were informed and they alerted beat staff. Ten FIRs have been registered and police are registering more after receiving complaints,” the officer said.
The officer said that one FIR had been lodged and four arrested in East district. There were also three FIRs and two arrests in the Northeast district, one FIR and one arrest in North, one FIR and two arrests in Dwarka, two FIRs in Rohini, and one FIR each in Central and West districts.
Additional DCP (East district) Sanjay Sehrawat said patrolling staff apprehended four persons — Dalip Lal (35), Shivam Dubey (27), Rahul Tyagi (24) and Rajeev Kumar (19) — from Kalyanpuri.
“An FIR under sections 3 of the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 3 Press and Registration of Books Act, 51(1)(b) and 54 DDMA, 188, 269, and 34 of the IPC has been registered against them. Around 860 posters and 20 banners have been recovered from their possession. During questioning, they claimed an AAP councillor asked them to paste all these posters. We are verifying the claims and further investigations are on,” the DCP said.
Beginning January 20 and until the end of March, India exported over 6.6 crore vaccine doses to 93 countries, most of which had a pandemic less severe than India, as measured by caseload and death per lakh population. This, even as the second Covid wave had hit, amid a looming shortage of vaccine doses.
Meanwhile, the police’s questioning of Shrinivas drew a sharp reaction from the Congress, which accused the Centre of humiliating those who were helping people in the time of crisis. The police said they were acting on directions of the Delhi High Court, and that they had earlier approached AAP MLA Dilip Pandey in connection with the same matter.
In his petition, Deepak Singh, chairman of the non-profit Hrudaya Foundation, sought a CBI probe into an alleged “medical mafia-politicians nexus” and illegal distribution of Covid medicines by politicians.
However, the court on May 4 declined the prayer and asked Singh to approach the Delhi Police Commissioner. The court also asked the state to file a status report within a week and listed the case for hearing on May 17.
“In case the alleged incidents are found to have taken place in Delhi, Delhi Police should take appropriate steps by registration of FIR,” said the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli in an order.
Following the court order, a team of Crime Branch was asked by Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava to conduct an enquiry. At the time, Delhi Police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal had said that “in compliance with directions of Hon’ble High Court, an enquiry is being conducted from several concerned persons”.
Over the last month, Srinivas has become the face of Covid relief efforts, especially in the national capital, with his team of volunteers responding to several SOS messages from individuals, hospitals and even embassies mainly seeking oxygen cylinders and beds.
One such appeal on Twitter by the New Zealand High Commission had led to an unusually terse message from the Centre to “all high commissions and embassies” warning against hoarding oxygen.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Srinivas said: “They (police) told us that somebody had filed a petition in the High Court. They wanted to know we are arranging oxygen, medicines… we explained everything to them. We are not doing anything wrong, we have nothing to hide. We also have the party’s support.”
Taking to Twitter, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said: “If helping someone in need is now a crime, I will commit it again and again. To my mind it’s a far greater crime to silently watch and do nothing while people die desperately searching for medicine and gasping for air.”
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala accused the Centre of following “raid dharma and not raj dharma”. “Is providing oxygen in times of difficulty a crime? Is helping a dying patient with Remdesivir drug a crime? Is arranging beds and ventilators in hospitals a crime? Is providing food to the needy a crime?” he asked.
Meanwhile, former MP Shahid Siddiqui tweeted: “On the day of Eid an inspector from Crime branch came to inquire how I got 2 injections of Remsidivir from @priyankagandhi & @MukeshSharmaMLA for my wife. They are wasting taxpayers money inquiring how someone helped not why people are dying because of dearth of medicines & O2.”
BJP MP Gambhir, who had distributed Fabiflu tablets for free from his office last month, hit back at the Opposition. “Opposition should not indulge in needless politicisation of due process. Delhi Police has asked for a reply from us & we’ve provided all details. I will keep serving Delhi & its people to the best of my abilities always,” Gambhir, a former India cricketer, posted on Twitter.
Hearing a separate application against AAP MLA Imran Hussain alleging “arbitrary distribution” and “hoarding” of oxygen cylinders, the court had clarified that there is no prohibition on distribution of cylinders. However, the court said, it will not be permitted if medical oxygen is being procured from re-fillers otherwise allotted to hospitals, nursing homes and individuals by the Delhi government.
“If there is no such prohibition and if from some other source they (political leaders) are getting it and distributing it… then good, they are doing service for a change. All the time they are not serving the people; if today they are serving we should be happy about it,” observed the court.
(With Manoj CG)