In SC petition, fact-checker Mohammed Zubair cites death threats
Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News, has petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) seeking bail and the dismissal of an FIR. His counsel asked the SC to hear the case urgently, citing the threat to his life. However, the court has consented to hear the plea on Friday following the approval of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana.
- Last week, the Delhi Police arrested Zubair after registering an FIR based on a right-wing social media account's complaint.
- The account tagged the Delhi Police on social media, seeking action against Zubair for allegedly "hurting religious sentiments."
- The police reportedly arrested Zubair after summoning him in a 2020 case without serving any prior notice for questioning in the above-mentioned case as mandated by law.
Zubair's counsel, Colin Gonsalves, requested a hearing at 2:00 pm on Thursday, citing death threats to him. "There are death threats against him. People have said that they will kill him. We are worried about his safety. Please see the urgency," he told a bench of Justice Indira Banerjee, who ordered the case to be heard tomorrow, subject to approval from the CJI.
Zubair, a co-founder of Alt News, is currently lodged in Delhi's Tihar Jail. On Saturday, the Patiala House Court sent him to 14-day judicial custody after rejecting his bail. Later, he approached the Delhi High Court, however, he failed to get any relief there, too. He had argued that action is being taken against him because of his religion and his fact-checking work.
An FIR has also been registered against Zubair in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, for calling Hindu seers "hatemongers." He is accused of hurting the sentiments of the followers of these leaders. His lawyer has requested the SC to quash this FIR. His arrest came days after flagging a video of now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's provocative remarks against Prophet Mohammad on a TV show.
Almost every opposition leader, from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has condemned the move against Zubair. They also charged the government with persecuting independent journalists. On the other hand, Zubair's supporters say this action was taken against him because he exposed former BJP politician Sharma's statements against Prophet Mohammad, which brought embarrassment to the party.