Police in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday registered an FIR against former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Kamal Nath for allegedly spreading panic by referring to Covid-19 as the “Indian variant of Corona”.
The Crime Branch has booked Nath under IPC section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) on the ground that his statements — made at a press conference — spread misinformation and fear among the masses, and was thereby in violation of orders promulgated by the collector under section 144 CrPC. Nath has also been booked under section 54 (Punishment for false warning) of the Disaster Management Act.
The former Chief Minister described the FIR as “an act of desperation”. The government does not have answers, Nath said, and therefore, “any person who is asking questions is termed as deshdrohi”.
The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by BJP Bhopal district president Sumit Pachori, which was also signed by state minister Vishwas Sarang, MLA Rameshwar Sharma, and other state BJP leaders.
In his complaint, Pachori said that Nath, while addressing a virtual press meet, had referred to Covid as the Indian variant Corona, which had sullied the image of India and spread fear among the masses. According to the complaint, Nath had also said that the disease that has now spread across the word has come to be known as “Indian Corona”, and that several Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world were referring to it as the “Indian variant”.
The complaint alleged that Nath had said this “with a view to spread misinformation, anarchy and disrupt the peace in the country and defame the nation globally” at a time “when in reality, to battle this pandemic and ensure health facilities to all, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, doctors, policemen, paramedics and all social organisations are coming together to strengthen the government set-up…”
The complaint also said that Nath had disregarded World Heath Organisation guidelines on Covid, and that his action amounted to sedition as per the IPC.
According to the complaint, in his press conference, Nath had alleged that the government was hiding figures of Covid deaths, which was highly objectionable and spread fear.
Addressing the press conference, Nath had said, “Ye bahut dukh ki baat hai ki Bharat kis tarah poore vishwa mein badnaam ho raha hai. Ye Cheen ka virus tha, Cheen ka Corona tha, aaj pure vishwa mein sabne naam likh diya hai Indian variant corona. Kai rashtrapati aur pradhan mantri is naam se pukaar rahe hain — Indian Variant. Hamare jo students hain, jo baahar naukri kar rahe the, wo baahar nahi ja pa rahe hain, kyu ki aap Indian hain. (It is very sad, the way India has got a bad name around the world. This was a virus from China, now it is being called the Indian variant of Corona. Several Presidents and Prime Ministers are calling it the ‘Indian variant’. Indians who work and study abroad can’t go, because they are Indian.)”
Asked for a reaction on Sunday, Kamal Nath said, “I am insinuating, but I am insinuating the government to act and work for the welfare of people. When I said that 1.27 lakh people were cremated of which 80 per cent are Covid deaths and the government does not agree with it, why don’t they come up with actual figures? In Ujjain, I had said that Mera Bharat Mahan ki jagah Mera Bharat Badnaam ho gaya hai as many Prime Ministers and Presidents are calling it the Indian Covid. The FIR is an act of desperation. Any person who is asking questions is termed as deshdrohi as they don’t have answers.”
@ChouhanShivraj राजनीति से प्रेरित FIR @OfficeOfKNath के विरुद्ध मात्र भाजपा का #corona डैमिज कंट्रोल और अपनी नाकामी छुपाने का प्रयास है।केंद्र सरकार ने SC में दायर हलफ़नामा के para ३३ में इसे indian double mutant strain बताया गया।कमलनाथ जी के बयान को भी ग़लत ढंग से प्रस्तुत १/२ pic.twitter.com/r66ul0HD4z
— Vivek Tankha (@VTankha) May 23, 2021
Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha said on Twitter that the FIR was an attempt by the BJP to hide its incompetence. He said that the Centre, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, had itself referred to the “Indian double mutant strain” of the virus.