ASI Kulwant Chand with the police jawans at Jiwan Nagar Police chowki where theft accused who tested positive for coronavirus was kept after arresting in Ludhiana. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)
Sixteen policemen have been quarantined after a youth who was arrested by Ludhiana city police for theft tested positive for coronavirus late Wednesday. His accomplice escaped before his samples could be taken for testing. He was still absconding at the time of filing this report.
The 24-year-old coronavirus patient, a resident of Ganesh Nagar in Janakpuri, Ludhiana, was arrested along with his accomplice, for allegedly stealing a motorbike and mobile phone. An FIR was registered against under section 379-B (snatching) of IPC at Focal Point police station on April 6.
Police sources said they were arrested on the evening of April 5 and kept overnight at Industrial Area (Jeewan Nagar) police post. On April 6, they were taken into custody by police personnel from the Dhandhari post for interrogation in a separate case.
Later, they were taken to Focal Point police station for a press conference where officers including SHO Inspector Mohammad Jameel posed for photographs with the two.
They were then produced in court, accompanied by three police officers. The court sent them to judicial remand. However, when they were taken to Ludhiana Central Jail for admission, the jail medical officer denied them entry, saying that they needed a check-up because the Janakpuri youth was found to be suffering from fever and cold. The accomplice was asymptomatic but was also was referred for a detailed check-up.
Doctors at Civil Hospital Ludhiana referred both accused to an isolation ward. However, when an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) was getting them admitted and undid their handcuffs, the accomplice allegedly pushed him and fled. He is still absconding, and the search for him intensified after the other youth’s test reports came back positive.
A fresh FIR was registered against the absconding accused under section 224 (resistance or obstruction by a person to his lawful apprehension) of IPC at Division no. 2 police station for fleeing from custody.
Meanwhile, according to a contact tracing list prepared by Ludhiana police which was submitted to the health department, the patient came in contact with at least 16 policemen including an inspector, four assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs), three head constables, five constables and three home guards on April 5 and 6.
The list also mentions two private 'informers' who “held the accused and brought them to police post” taking the total police-related contacts to 18.
Among the 16 police officers, 10 came in contact with him at Industrial Area police post -- three ASIs, two head constables, three constables and two home guards. Then at Focal Point police station where the press conference was held, SHO Inspector Mohammad Jameel and a constable also came in contact with him.
Then three policemen accompanied him to court, jail and for medical check-up at civil hospital. Two others including a lady constable came in contact with the patient while taking his fingerprints at Focal Point police station.
After coming to know that the youth had tested positive for coronavirus, at least these cops including Inspector Mohammad Jameel and Industrial Area police post incharge ASI Kulwant Chand were ordered to go in quarantine Thursday morning. Sources said some of them were also put in hotels. The premises of Focal Point police station and Industrial Area police post were also sanitised thrice Thursday. However, when The Indian Express photojournalist visited the Industrial Area police post, in-charge Kulwant Chand was still present there.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Akhil Chaudhary, DCP (Headquarters) Ludhiana city, said, "Policemen who were in direct contact with the patient have been quarantined. They accompanied him to court, jail and for medical-check up. SHO Focal Point police station has also been quarantined. We have got premises of Focal Point police station and Industrial Area police post sanitised."
Inspector Mohammad Jameel said, "I had got a photograph clicked with him during the press conference. I have home-quarantined myself. I won't be meeting the public and will manage work on phone till a medical test doesn't clear me."
Meanwhile, Dr. Rajesh Bagga, civil surgeon Ludhiana, said that apart from these police contacts, 11 family members of the patient will also be tested. "We have told police to make all their officers report to us for tests. Eleven family members have also been traced."
The source of infection wasn't clear till the time of filing this report. As per the health department, the youth had traveled to Jaipur, but police said it was still a matter of investigation.
Sessions judge Gurbir Singh confirmed that duty magistrate JMIC Monika Chauhan, in whose court the two accused were produced on April 6, has also been advised self-quarantine.