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Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh Police on Friday, January 14, booked nearly 2,500 Samajwadi Party (SP) workers for allegedly flouting COVID-19 norms after officials said that a massive crowd gathered at the party office in Lucknow.
The Election Commission has banned public rallies, roadshows and corner meetings till January 15 in the five poll-bound states, citing the fresh surge in COVID cases, and issued stringent safety guidelines.
In the latest incident, the authorities also suspended in-charge of Gautam Palli police station and sought clarification from two senior officials after a massive crowd gathered at the SP office for the joining-in function of two rebel ministers and some MLAs.
“Taking cognisance of the Lucknow district magistrate’s report about the violation of the Model Code of Conduct on COVID norms, directives were issued to place Gautam Palli police station in-charge Dinesh Singh Bisht into suspension with immediate effect,” an official statement issued by the office of the UP chief electoral officer said.
“Besides, the commission also sought a clarification from the ACP (Lucknow) Akhilesh Singh and Additional City Magistate (First) Govind Maurya by 11 am on Saturday,” the statement said.
Police commissioner (Lucknow) D.K. Thakur confirmed that the station officer was suspended.
“A case was registered after a massive crowd, in violation of COVID norms, gathered at the SP office according to the directives of the election commission on COVID-related norms,” officials said.
Former ministers Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, besides five BJP MLAs and one from the Apna Dal (Sonelal), joined the Samajwadi Party in the presence of its president Akhilesh Yadav.
“An FIR was registered at the Gautam Palli Police Station against 2,000 to 2,500 unknown SP activists for violating COVID norms at the party’s office,” Thakur said.
On the complaint of Sub Inspector Ajay Kumar Singh, the case was registered under Indian Penal Code Sections 188 (violation of instructions), 269 (spreading infection of disease), 270 (endangering the life of others by spreading infection) and 341 (wrongful restraint of a person).
The FIR also has charges mentioned under the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act.
“The sub-inspector has alleged in his complaint that 2,000 to 2,500 SP workers blocked the road by parking vehicles haphazardly around the party’s headquarters and illegally organised the gathering,” Thakur said.
It was also said in the complaint that the SP workers were asked, using loudspeakers, to clear the crowd and remove vehicles but there was no effect. Singh alleged violation of the election code of conduct and COVID norms.
Video clips showed hundreds of party workers gathered at the SP office, with a majority of them not wearing masks.
“Prima facie, there was a violation of COVID-19 norms, and investigations are underway. A team of officials of the district administration and police had gone there,” a senior official of the Lucknow district administration said.
When asked about the action being taken in the matter, Lucknow district magistrate Abhishek Prakash told PTI, “Action is being taken according to law.”
The election commission listed out 16-point guidelines for campaigning as it banned ‘nukkad sabhas’ (corner meetings) on public roads and roundabouts, limited the number of persons allowed for the door-to-door campaign to five, including the candidate, and prohibited victory processions after the counting of votes.
Capital Lucknow and other parts of Uttar Pradesh have been also witnessing a spurt in coronavirus cases.
(With PTI inputs)