The Uttarakhand government has ordered the Haridwar district administration to file an FIR (first information report) against private labs accused of conducting fake COVID-19 tests during the Kumbh Mela, held in the state between 1 and 30 April.
A preliminary probe by the Uttarakhand Health Department had earlier this week found out that at least one lakh coronavirus test results issued by private labs during the Kumbh Mela may have been fake.
However, the true extent of the 'scam' is yet to be known. According to a report in The Wire, as many as 4,00,000 tests conducted during Kumbh turned out to be fake.
State government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal told ANI that an order has been issued to file a case against labs from Delhi and Haryana, which conducted testing at five places in Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela.
Which firms are named in the FIR?
The firm, Max Corporate Service, Nalwa Laboratories Private Limited of Hisar, and Delhi-based Dr Lalchandani Lab have been reportedly accused of issuing fake negative test reports.
The alleged scam had taken place after the Uttarakhand High Court had directed the state government to test 50,000 samples daily to control the spread of COVID-19 during the religious congregation, for which the state health department awarded the contract to Max Corporate Service.
The company had reportedly further hired the two labs Nalwa Laboratories Private Limited in Hisar and Delhi-based Dr Lalchandani Lab to conduct the tests.
The labs apparently did so to meet this daily testing quota set by the Uttarakhand High Court, sources told PTI.
Under what sections have the firms been booked?
Confirming the lodging of the case, DGP Ashok Kumar said the complaint was lodged on behalf of Haridwar chief medical officer Shambhu Kumar Jha.
He said the company and both labs have been booked under the Epidemic Diseases and the Disaster Management Acts besides Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code.
What is the state government's stand on this?
Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat has said the fake COVID-19 testing scam dates back to before his term, while his predecessor Trivendra Singh Rawat demanded a judicial probe into it.
"The scam is old. I took over in March. However, a probe has already been ordered into it and stern action will be taken against those involved," Tirath Singh Rawat told reporters here on the sidelines of a programme on Thursday. Tirath Singh Rawat became the chief minister of the state on 10 March while the Kumbh Mela was held from 1 to 30 April.
He said that the decision to rope in private firms to conduct COVID-19 tests during the Kumbh Mela was taken before he took over as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. However, he expressed the state government's resolve to bring out the truth and punish the guilty.
Meanwhile, his predecessor Trivendra Singh Rawat has demanded an impartial probe into the scam by a high court judge, terming the scam serious in nature.
When did the matter come to light?
The matter had come to light after a man complained to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that he received a message on his mobile phone about his test report coming negative at the Kumbh even though he had not given a sample for it.
After receiving the complaint from the ICMR, the Uttarakhand government asked the Haridwar district magistrate to investigate the matter and a three-member panel was constituted for it.
Preliminary investigations revealed that many private labs roped in by the district Health Department issued fake Covid test reports in the name of random people on the basis of their identity cards and phone numbers.
It is suspected that more than one lakh such test results had been issued by the private labs, sources in the department had told PTI.
With inputs from PTI