Delhi court reserves order on Alt News co-founder Zubair's bail plea

CUE API | | Updated on: Jul 02, 2022
Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News. (PTI Photo)

Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News. (PTI Photo) | Photo Credit: Thoshith

14-day judicial custody sought on Zubair in a casefor an “objectionable tweet” he had posted in 2018 against a Hindu deity

A Delhi court on Saturday reserved its order on the bail plea of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair as well as the police application seeking his 14-day judicial custody in a case related to an “objectionable tweet” he had posted in 2018 against a Hindu deity.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria is likely to pass an order on both applications later in the day.

Earlier during the day, Delhi Police produced Zubair before the court on the expiry of his five-day custodial interrogation. Police told the court he was not required for custodial interrogation but sought his judicial custody.

Following the police plea, advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the accused, moved a bail application before the court on the ground that her client was not required for the investigation any further and said “I (Zubair) am not some terrorist that they need to secure my presence”.

During the hearing, Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava also informed the court that the police has invoked new provisions -- sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code and section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act -- against Zubair.

He claimed that the accused accepted money through Razorpay payment gateway from Pakistan, Syria and other countries, which requires further investigation.

“He came to office of special cell with phone. When it was analysed, it was found that prior to that day, he has been using another sim. When he received notice, he took out the same and put it in new mobile. Please see how clever the person is,” the prosecutor told the court.

He added that the probe agency may need further custody of the accused and may move an application since the investigation was not complete in the matter.

Vrinda Grover claimed that since the story of section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc) is over, police was telling media that Zubair was taking money, naming some countries.

The court was misled when told that the accused has received foreign contributions, she said.

“Alt News runs under a company under sec 8. They are saying I am a journalist, I cannot receive FCRA. This is to the company, not to me. It hasn't gone into my account. I am making a categorical statement,” she said.

Grover further told the court that the phone seized by the police was not of the time when the tweets were made.

“Tweet is of 2018, the phone is which I (Zubair) am using presently. I haven't even denied the tweet,” she said.

Grover told the court that the entire exercise was malafide in nature and was a non prosecutable action of FIR, which started from a story of four-year-old tweet.

She claimed that there was likelihood of tampering by police, adding that till date the agency had not given the hash value (a fixed length variable, created using Mathematical Hash Function to check integrity of a digital data or device) of the phone.

Grover said there was a need of an enquiry into the person tweeting about Zubair's tweet and how it got picked for the complaint.

Grover reiterated that the reported picture used in the tweet in question by Zubair was from a scene in a 1983 Rishikesh Mukherjee film ‘Kissi Se Na Kehna’.

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On court's query regarding what further investigation was left on the basis of which police said it will ask further PC and how much time will it take for the agency to search, the prosecutor said the police needed time to find out how much money was received from which country and person.

Zubair was earlier booked under section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) of IPC.

Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) was also invoked against him later.

Published on July 02, 2022
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