UP Police Files Case Against Youth Seeking Oxygen For Friend’s Grandfather
On Tuesday evening, the Uttar Pradesh police booked an individual for appealing for an oxygen cylinder on Twitter to help his friend’s ailing grandfather. The police claimed that by putting out such a request, he was spreading fear and misinformation during the pandemic, according to a statement they tweeted.
The individual, Shashank Yadav, now faces charges under sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (spreading infectious diseases), and 505 (1)(b) (making a person commit an offense against the State) of the Indian Penal Code, along with charges under the Epidemic Act and the Disaster Management Act. The police says Yadav attempted to source oxygen for a patient who was dying of heart disease, not Covid19, and in doing so he was indulging in rumor-mongering.
Last week, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said there was no shortage of oxygen in any private or public Covid hospital in the state; he further asked officials to use the National Security Act and the Gangsters Act against “anti-social elements” who spread “rumors” and propaganda on social media, and try to “spoil the atmosphere.” Contrary to this narrative, several doctors have also taken to social media to warn of a severe oxygen shortage facing Uttar Pradesh hospitals.
The Uttar Pradesh government maintains that the state is not undergoing a Covid19 crisis, the state is currently the second-worst hit in India, with 3,94,610 cases and 2,013 deaths over the past two weeks. It is important to note that oxygen cylinder shortages affect all individuals admitted with breathing problems in hospitals — not just the large number of Covid19 patients occupying hospitals currently.
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Yadav tweeted and messaged several individuals on Twitter to amplify his requirement, including actor Sonu Sood. His request reached the Union Minister and Member of Parliament from Amethi, Smriti Irani, who later said she couldn’t reach him via phone. Irani then alerted Amethi police and Amethi’s district magistrate to ensure that Yadav received help. Unfortunately, Yadav’s friend’s grandfather had passed away.
On investigation later, the Amethi police found that Yadav’s friend’s grandfather was admitted to a private hospital and wasn’t dying of Covid19. They tweeted this statement under his call for help: “When contacted immediately, it was learned that his cousin’s maternal grandfather was 88 years old. Neither did he have COVID nor was there any medical necessity of oxygen. He died of a heart attack at 8 pm. At this time it is not only condemnable but also a legal offense to post such type of fear-generating posts on social media,” as a means of discrediting Yadav’s claim.
Yadav now faces charges of circulating rumors with intent to cause fear, making people commit an offense against the State, and engaging in acts likely to spread infectious diseases. The complaint put forth by the Amethi police could result in jail time for Yadav, whose only ‘crime’ was perhaps to put out a frantic call for help.