Pearl Narang

Pearl Narang is a final year law student of B.B.A.LL.B (Hons.) at Chandigarh University, Mohali and is currently interning as a Trainee in Business World Legal Community. She is also pursuing a diploma in Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. She is passionate about both law and writing.

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The devious case of false positives—A chronicle of forged COVID-19 tests

Whether a person can pull-off a scam depends on how vulnerable people are. Beware!

Whether a person can pull-off a scam depends on how vulnerable people are. COVID-19, the ‘once in a century’ pandemic has created a climate of uncertainty. This uncertainty has created an atmosphere where every action is motivated by the fear of contracting the virus. People want to know how safe they are and they want answers. True answers. Rising panic around the virus has forced individuals to look for a way to prevent or cure COVID-19.

A lot of people have taken advantage of this panic to create scams and rob people of their money. Tuli Diagnostic Centre is one such example. The lab has been accused of colluding with a COVID-19 hospital to declare perfectly healthy people COVID-19 positive.  The lab forged tests, hospitalized the patients and charged them very high medical costs for treatment. One of the affected persons,  a pregnant doctor, stated that the hospitalisation in a facility full of coronavirus-positive patients exposed them to a greater risk of contracting the virus at the hospital itself. 

The vigilance bureau 

The Senior Superintendent of Police (Vigilance), Amritsar, got three complaints against the lab and the hospital on June 20 this year. Acting on the complaint, a team of vigilance investigators conducted raids on the lab and the hospital and seized all COVID-19 testing records and other documents. Also, the teams sealed the testing machine of the lab till further orders.

The vigilance bureau booked four persons, including the owners of Tuli Diagnostic Centre, a private hospital owner and its doctor for colluding with the lab and committing fraud.

Charges framed 

The First Information Report (FIR) filed by the police includes severe charges because the lab endangered lives of the people by issuing fake reports of COVID-19. The lab owner and its staff have been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). These are S. 188 of Disobedience to Order, S. 270 of Spreading Infection, S.307 Attempt to Murder, S. 336 of Endangering Life of Others, S. 420 of Fraud, S. 467-68 Forgery, S. 471 of Using as Genuine a Forged and S. 120-B of Criminal Conspiracy. They have also been charged with various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. On the other hand, the hospital owner and the doctor were booked under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC.

The Lab’s Response

The lab has defended itself by stating that they are being harassed for doing their jobs. The lab stated that they have been declaring results in line with guidelines laid out by the Indian Council of Medical Research. 

The lab approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court stating that the Bureau was interfering in its functioning. It asked that the Bureau should be restrained from conducting raids at the lab’s premises In addition to this, the lab also asked for the equipment and records to be seized by the Bureau.

Other Cases

In another case, a 35-year-old lab technician, Abdul Gaffar Shaikh, was arrested for allegedly forging COVID-19 reports of a 65-year-old cancer patient. He also robbed the patient of Rs. 6,000. The technician was employed at a hospital in Wadala. The Hindustan Times reported another incident where, Thyrocare, a private diagnostic laboratory was banned by Pune’s District Collector. The District Collector prohibited the lab from conducting COVID-19 tests after receiving complaints about false positives and a delay in reports.

With the rising number of cases like these, there needs to be strict regulations for private labs that have been allowed to test COVID-19. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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COVID-19 cheating fraud indian penal code

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