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Chhattisgarh: FIR Against Ramdev May Not Withstand Legal Scrutiny

Though the case was registered by members of the IMA, one of the doctors is also affiliated with the local Congress unit. The Chhattisgarh police's track record in 'politically motivated' cases has been shoddy.

Bhopal: The Chhattisgarh chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has taken up yoga guru Ramdev’s challenge to arrest him and filed a complaint with the Civil Lines police station in Raipur, accusing him of criminal rumour mongering, spreading misinformation about a disease, among other offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Disaster Management Act. A first information report (FIR) was registered on the basis of this complaint and notice has been served on Ramdev by the Chhattisgarh police, returnable within a week.

The FIR has been filed by Dr Rakesh Gupta who is an ENT doctor based in Raipur and a member of the IMA governing body. He has submitted two video links where Ramdev can be seen allegedly heaping scorn over modern medicines and allopathic doctors as evidence to support his allegations.

A doctor confirmed to The Wire that the FIR has been filed after discussions within the doctors’ community of the state, which is riled over the alleged misinformation spread by Ramdev, both about allopathy and the contribution of doctors during the second wave of COVID-19. “He has spread enough misinformation about the disease and doctors, and should be held criminally liable. He is the main cause of thousands of deaths in rural India, where people took Coronil [a Patanjali product], falsely believing it to be a cure [for COVID-19],” says another doctor.

The FIR has been filed under Sections 188, 269, 270, 504 and 505 (1) of the IPC and Sections 51, 52 and 54 of the DMA. These cover a vast number of offences and a simple apology by Ramdev is unlikely to exonerate him. But the Chhattisgarh police is not known for its diligence. It has time and again been shown up, simply because it does not know how to use the playbook. In the present case, an FIR cannot be registered under Sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (an unlawful or negligent act which spreads any disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act which is likely to spread any disease dangerous to life) of the IPC on the basis of a complaint by a doctor or an association. These sections deal with violations that have to be taken cognizance of by the administration, more specifically by the officer who has issued the direction which has been violated.

Similarly, charges under the DMA complaint should logically come from the state government or official concerned whose orders have been disobeyed. The police can file a suo motu FIR, as these are cognisable offences. But it will have to provide a reasonable basis and proof through investigation and may also have to explain the inordinate delay in registering the FIR.

So in this case, it would be the Raipur collector who should have been the complainant and initiator under these sections. A case can be made that Ramdev has knowingly violated the provisions of these sections.

The IMA comes into the picture with offences under Sections 504 [intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace] and 505(1) [with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community], where it can be a complainant.

Dr Gupta is also reportedly an office-bearer of the local Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC). Unfortunately, Chhattisgarh has a poor record when it comes to “politically motivated” cases. It has consistently faltered and courts have taken a very dim view of the method and content of cases involving political or media personalities. It is largely viewed as vengeful and an attempt to please the Congress bigwigs and the shoddy police approach has come in for severe criticism from courts.

In the most recent order issued on June 14, 2021, the high court in Bilaspur quashed the FIR point-wise and section-wise while granting a stay to former chief minister Raman Singh in a case under similar sections which was filed by the same police station after the BJP leader tweeted about the alleged “Congress toolkit”. The judge accepted the defence’s argument that it was prima facie a politically motivated case. Similarly, cases that were filed against Arnab Goswami over his remarks about Sonia Gandhi also ran into a dead end.

While FIRs against Raman Singh, Goswami and Ramdev make a big splash in the news, dull filings and inconsistent attention to court orders – coupled with poor legal advice – have resulted in a crop of FIRs failing.