Delhi court grants bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair
A Delhi court granted bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair on Friday in a case involving an offensive tweet he sent in 2018 against a Hindu deity. The bail has been granted on a personal bond of Rs. 50,000 a day after it reserved the order. However, he cannot leave the country without the consent of the court, according to the ruling.
- In June, the Delhi Police arrested Zubair after registering an FIR based on a right-wing social media account's complaint over his 2018 tweet.
- Later, Uttar Pradesh's Sitapur Police booked Zubair for terming religious leaders Mahant Bajrang Muni Udasin, Yati Narsinghanand, and Swami Anand Swarup "hatemongers."
- On July 8, UP's Lakhimpur Kheri Police obtained a warrant against Zubair in a one-year-old case allegedly for promoting enmity.
On July 2, a magisterial court dismissed his bail plea and sent him to 14-day judicial custody (JC) in the case. The court cited the nature and gravity of the offenses against the accused. It also observed that the matter was at the initial stage of the investigation. Since his arrest last month he had six separate cases filed against him in Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, Zubair has petitioned the Supreme Court to quash all six Police FIRs filed against him in Uttar Pradesh. Cases against him have been filed at Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Hathras, Ghaziabad, and Muzzaffarnagar. Along with the UP Police FIRs, Zubair's petition to Supreme Court also challenges the creation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT).
On Thursday, Zubair was sent to 14-day judicial custody by a Hathras court in one of the cases. The case has been filed under various IPC sections including 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), and Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of IT Act.
Previously, the court asked how many individuals were aggrieved by Zubair's 2018 post and if the police had documented comments, as required by law. "You cannot go by the tweets and retweets. You have to go by the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) and record the statement," it said. Zubair's tweet alluded to a Bollywood film from 1983.
On Thursday, the matter was heard after two days of inactivity. Special prosecutor, Atul Shrivastav, had stated that he was unable to attend previous sessions. During Friday's hearing, the court asked if there was evidence to investigate Zubair under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), based on the argument that foreign donations were obtained by fact-checking the website Alt News from several countries.
Vrinda Grover, Zubair's counsel, refuted the prosecutor's assertion of proof in the FCRA case. She stated that while donations were requested by Pravda Media (Alt News parent business), they had already declared they do not (take) foreign remittances. "Alt News was allowed to receive donations only from Indian bank accounts... There is no foreign remuneration," she claimed.