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Kumbh Covid-19 Scam Probe Gains Momentum, SIT Formed

File photo: Devotees gather to offer prayers during Ganga aarti at Kumbh Mela, at Har ki Pouri, in Haridwar. (PTI)

File photo: Devotees gather to offer prayers during Ganga aarti at Kumbh Mela, at Har ki Pouri, in Haridwar. (PTI)

Firm named in FIR moves HC seeking relief.

The Haridwar police on Friday formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the alleged Covid-19 fake result scam that has left health experts and stakeholders baffled. The eight-member SIT team began proceedings by quizzing the chief medical officer of Haridwar on whose complaint police filed FIR against one firm and two private laboratories - those were assigned to conduct Covid tests during the Kumbh congregation held in April this year.

The two laboratories namely Delhi-based Lal Chandani Lab and Hissar-based Nalwa lab were hired by one Max Corporate Service – a firm based out of Delhi. These laboratories conducted more than 1.23 lakh Covid tests in a span of four weeks time. The wrongdoing came to light after a whistleblower from Punjab shot an e-mail to Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR). The ICMR further shared details with Uttarakhand.

In its preliminary inquiry, the Uttarakhand health department revealed thousands of tests conducted during Kumbh were allegedly fake. News18 further divulged in its investigation that private firm Max which had inked an arrangement with the Haridwar administration reportedly has a shoddy background.

The police have booked the concerned parties under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including 269 & 270 (likely to spread infection), 420 (forgery), 120B (criminal conspiracy), and Epidemic Act.

Meanwhile, private firm Max moved Nainital High Court seeking quashing of FIR and immunity from arrest. Kartikey Hari Gupta, the counsel for the petitioner said “the client has been wrongly booked as they have nothing to do with the fake tests. Max merely had an arrangement with the laboratories”.

Even as police moving with their investigation, a parallel probe by the Haridwar district administration is trying to find out the role of officials in perhaps the first known scam linked to fake Covid tests.

Interestingly, amid all this hullaballoo a small team of health department doing a herculean task by calling each phone number mentioned in the test report – which is indeed under the scanner. Some 2.51 lakh odd tests were conducted alone in the Haridwar city during Kumbh duration.

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first published:June 18, 2021, 22:08 IST