Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair remanded to 4-day police custody
A Delhi court remanded Mohammed Zubair, a journalist and one of the founders of the fact-checking platform Alt News, in four-day police custody on Tuesday. He was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday in a case involving an "objectionable" tweet that allegedly hurt religious sentiments and was detrimental to communal harmony. The Delhi Police had sought five-day custody of Zubair.
ANI quoted the police as saying the current case was registered based on a complaint by Twitter user Hanuman Bhakt (@balajikijaiin) over a 2018 tweet by Zubair against Lord Hanuman. Zubair posted an image of a hotel signboard, writing, "BEFORE 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel." User Hanuman Bhakt urged cops to take action as Zubair's tweet was a "direct insult of Hindus."
Meanwhile, DCP KPS Malhotra, Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations, Delhi Police, said the police would seek more time to question Zubair. He also junked reports claiming the arrest was politically motivated. "If someone is booked in several cases it's our right to question him in all. Judiciary is involved, custody given, bail not granted, there must be some substance to case (sic)," Malhotra added.
On Tuesday, Zubair's lawyer Vrinda Grover told the Delhi court her client had only shared a screenshot from a 1983 movie—Hrishikesh Mukherjee's classic Kissi Se Na Kehna—that was cleared by the censor board. Grover said many others had also tweeted the same. Yet, Zubair was targeted because of his name, faith, and profession, she claimed, referring to him being a Muslim and a journalist.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police under Sections 153 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), reported news agency ANI. While Section 153 pertains to "wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot," Section 295A concerns "deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs," as per Indian Kanoon.
Meanwhile, Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha on Monday alleged the police summoned Zubair in connection with a separate, 2020 case but arrested him in the case related to hurting religious sentiments. However, the Delhi Police reportedly stated that Zubair was arrested only "after having sufficient evidence on record." The current case was registered at the Special Cell Police Station, according to DCP Malhotra.