Saturday, Dec 10, 2022

Delhi Court To Hear Alt News Co-Founder Mohammad Zubair's Bail Plea On Thursday

Delhi Court To Hear Alt News Co-Founder Mohammad Zubair's Bail Plea On Thursday

The Supreme Court extended Mohammad Zubair's interim bail in a case registered against him in Uttar Pradesh. It will not have any effect on case in Delhi.

AltNews co-founder Muhammad Zubair PTI

A Delhi court will hear the bail petition filed by Alt News Co-founder Mohammad Zubair on Thursday in a case related to a tweet that allegedly hurt religious sentiments. 

Additional Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala adjourned the hearing for Thursday after the prosecution sought time for a detailed argument in the matter.

The case pertains to an "objectionable tweet" Zubair made in 2018 n "objectionable tweet" against a Hindu deity.

SPP Atul Srivastava, appearing through video conference, urged the court to adjourn the matter, saying that a separate case against Zubair was scheduled for hearing before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. 

The apex court on Tuesday extended the interim bail to Zubair in a case registered against him in Uttar Pradesh's Sitapur till further orders. The Supreme Court's order, however, would have no bearing on Delhi court proceedings as these are two separate cases and the apex court had clarified this in earlier orders as well. 

At this, advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, urged the court to take up the matter on Wednesday.

The prosecutor, however, said he was in Bhopal and will not be available for appearance before the court tomorrow. Grover then said that some other prosecutor may argue the matter in case Srivastava was not available.

Grover said, "He can appear via VC. This bail was filed. It is a man's liberty. Let it be taken up tomorrow. He may appear on VC."

Srivastava then urged the court to post the matter for July 14, which was allowed by the judge.

During the brief hearing, the defence counsel opposed the police argument that the tweet posted by Zubair was "highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred amongst people which can be detrimental for maintenance of public tranquillity".

She said the image used in the tweet was from the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, 'Kissi Se Na Kehna', released in 1983.

She said, "In over three decades, nobody had any objection. My tweet, other Twitter handles tweet the same thing, since 2018, no sentiment is hurt...After four years, what is so provocative that will create mayhem? Till date, none of these have been asked to be taken down. Fortunately, there is no disturbance in society."

She sought the court's permission to play a video from the movie in question.

The judge, however, said the counsel could play the video later on.

"This Twitter profile (the complainant in the case) is made in 2021. He has only one follower. No algorithm can lead him to this tweet. Delhi Police finds it. While doing social media monitoring they would have certainly seen all other tweets with Twitter image and words, but they did not find anyone else. There is malafide writ large," she submitted.

In a separate development on Tuesday, the Supreme Court extended Zubair's interim bail in a case registed in UP's Sitapur till further orders. 

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was told by Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the UP government, that it wants to file a counter affidavit to Zubair's plea seeking quashing of the FIR lodged in the case. The bench then listed the plea for final hearing on September 7 and asked the UP government to file its response in four weeks. 

Earlier on July 8, the Supreme Court had granted five days interim bail to Zubair. However, the apex court clarified that it was neither staying the investigation in the case nor would its order have any bearing on proceedings in a Delhi court.

Separtely, a court in UP's Lakhimpur Kheri has sent Zubair to 14-day judicial custody in connection with a case lodged against him for allegedly promoting enmity. A district police officer told PTI that this particular case was filed against Zubair on November 25 by one Ashish Katiyar, a reporter for a private news channel.  

Zubair was arrested on June 27 by Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets. Earlier in June, a case against him was registered under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language etc.) and 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code, said KPS Malhotra, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Cyber Cell.

A magisterial court had on July 2 dismissed Zubair's bail plea and sent him to 14-day judicial custody (JC) in the case, citing the nature and gravity of the offences against the accused and observing that the matter was at an initial stage of investigation. The court had sent him to JC after his five day custodial interrogation.

In its order, the court had noted the submission of the public prosecutor that investigation was at an initial stage and that there was every likelihood that police custody remand of accused would be required.

The judge also considered addition of new sections during the course of investigation while rejecting the bail application. 

(With PTI inputs)