SC grants interim bail to Zubair; won't be free though
The Supreme Court's vacation bench has granted five-day interim bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in the hate speech case registered in Uttar Pradesh's Sitapur. However, he will reportedly remain in jail as he didn't get relief in another case in Delhi. The interim bail was granted on conditions that Zubair won't post any tweets or leave the jurisdiction of the Delhi magistrate.
- In June, 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" through a tweet four years ago.
- Later, the Uttar Pradesh Police in Sitapur also booked Zubair for one of his recent tweets calling some Hindu seers "hatemongers."
The vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari heard the plea filed by Zubair's counsel Colin Gonsalves on Friday. An FIR was filed against him in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, for reportedly insulting three Hindu seers by calling them "hatemongers." Gonsalves asked the SC to dismiss the FIR, claiming it lacks legal validity considering Zubair only opposed "hate speech" by these religious leaders.
The Supreme Court's vacation bench has also ordered that this case be listed before a regular bench. To recall, Zubair moved the top court on Thursday seeking bail and the dismissal of the Uttar Pradesh Police's FIR against him registered in Sitapur. His counsel had also urged the court to hear the case urgently, citing a threat to the journalist's life.
As per Bar and Bench, Zubair was booked under Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju—representing Uttar Pradesh—stated labeling religious leaders as "hatemongers" incites violence, hence invoking these sections is justified.
Earlier, a Sitapur court remanded Zubair to 14-day police custody in the aforementioned case. He has been lodged at Delhi's Tihar Jail following his arrest by the Delhi Police on June 27 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments over a 2018 tweet in which he mentioned Lord Hanuman. However, he has argued action is being taken against him because of his religion and fact-checking work.