KASARAGOD: Bekal police have booked Himdad Pallipuzha (28), a social worker in Pallikkara, for allegedly impersonating as a COVID-19 patient and raising allegations of data leak of patients. He was charged with wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riots (Section 153 of IPC), and causing a nuisance through any means of communication (Section 120 (o) of Kerala Police Act).
In the daily press conference in Thiruvananthapuram, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Himdad claimed in a video that he was a COVID-19 patient and he and 10 other patients got phishing calls. "He also said that he would approach the High Court over the data leak. However, there is no patient by the name of Himdad in Kasaragod," the chief minister said and added: "Himdad was at the forefront of the fake campaign that data of COVID-19 patients of Kasaragod was leaked".
'Government diverting attention'
Himdad, who holds a diploma in journalism, said the government was trying to divert attention over charges of a data leak. He said he was speaking for his cousin Ajmal Shafad, uncle and aunt, and two friends, who got calls seeking details.
"Shafad's father Mohammed Shafi used to frequently get calls from a psychologist asking the family members to come for blood testing in a private hospital in Kasaragod," Himdad said and added he had the voice recording. Similarly, several patients said they got calls from a private company in Bengaluru. To be sure, district police chief P S Sabu has submitted a report to collector D Sajith Babu that IKONTel, a company based in Bengaluru, contacted patients in Kasaragod. This was confirmed to TNIE by the collector.
On April 25, General Hospital organised an interactive session for COVID-19 survivors and relatives with psychologists and doctors. "In the meeting, we raised the issue and mentioned the calls we got. We were told by the doctors and superintendent not to share any information with anybody," said Himdad. When contacted, superintendent Dr Rajaram said the issue was mentioned in the meeting.
"We had asked the private psychologist to counsel COVID patients and shared a few phone numbers with him. We don't know why he asked them to come to his hospital for testing," he said. On April 27, Himdad emailed a petition signed by seven patients seeking a probe into the data leak to the chief minister. He got a reply to the mail, saying the petition has been forwarded to an ADGP investigating the case. Himdad, who is now out on bail, said the COVID-19 patients were determined to take the issue of the data leak to the high court. "The charges against me will not stand scrutiny," he said.
Meanwhile, a special team under State Crime Records Bureau ADGP took the statements of Himdad's relatives and the hospital superintendent. The special team is investigating the allegation of the data leak.