Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh police has booked the journalist who had attended former Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s press conference and later tested positive for COVID-19. He has been charged with negligence and for violating prohibitory orders.
The 55-year-old journalist’s daughter had tested positive for coronavirus after she returned from London, following which doctors asked him to self-quarantine. He, however, continued to move around, and had made visits to Raj Bhawan and the State Assembly.
A case has been registered against the journalist at Shyamala Hills police station based on a complaint filed by the Chief Medical Officer, Bhopal, under Sections 269, 270 and 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). “Despite knowing his daughter was infected, the man went around the city and violated the lockdown as well,” said V.K. Singh, officer in-charge at the police station.
The journalist’s daughter was the first confirmed case in Bhopal after she tested positive on March 22. He attended the press-conference on March 20 when Kamal Nath announced his resignation, in the presence of more than 200 journalists, Cabinet Ministers and Congress MLAs.
Later, the journalist went to Raj Bhavan, where Nath submitted his resignation to Governor Lalji Tandon, and visited the Vidhan Sabha. It was where BJP MLAs were to attend a session scheduled for 2 p.m., which was postponed in the light of Nath’s resignation. That night, the journalist reportedly took part in a TV debate as well. He is the brother of a senior Congress spokesperson in the State.
After the journalist tested positive on March 25, journalists, government officials and former Ministers, who were also at the press conference, became jittery. The same evening, the secretary of the Public Relations Department, P. Narahari, directed journalists who were present there to self-quarantine immediately. However, they protested saying that hundreds of MLAs, bureaucrats and security personnel were also present, asking why the order stopped at them.
The administration did not stop there. After identifying homes of the journalists that had attended the press-conference, it began pasting quarantine notices outside them.
The notice reads: “Covid-19, Do not visit, Home under quarantine”.
After Health Department personnel accompanied by the police started pasting notices, journalists started protesting. The personnel said they had a list from the collector and an order to paste the notices, said a journalist.
Some journalists said they have already quarantined themselves, complying with norms. However, Vatsal Shrivastava, a TV journalist, has complained to the Bhopal divisional commissioner against what he called the “highhandedness of the government”.
“Journalists as well as former CM Nath, his ministerial colleagues, several ruling party MLAs and several bureaucrats including the Bhopal collector were present at the press conference too. Why have no notices been pasted at their houses?Why only journalists?” he asked.
Bhopal collector Tarun Kumar Pithode could not be reached for comments. The commissioner, Kalpana Shrivastava, said she did not know who issued the order.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s media in-charge, Lokendra Parashar, said: “The journalists’ concern was immediately conveyed to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and he instructed authorities to look into the matter.”
Thirty three people in Madhya Pradesh have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. Of them, sixteen are from Indore and eight from Jabalpur, followed by Bhopal and Ujjain with three cases each. Shivpuri has two cases and Gwalior one. Two deaths have been reported, one each from Indore and Ujjain, state officials said.