Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was arrested by the Delhi police on Monday, June 27. Sources have confirmed to TNM that he was summoned by Delhi Police for questioning in connection with one case but was then booked in a different case and accused of trying to cause communal disharmony and arrested on the basis of that FIR. The fact-checker has been under attack from Hindutva groups for calling out hate speech by Yati Narsinghanand, Mahant Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop.
Zubair was summoned by the Delhi police on June 27 in connection with a POCSO case, but he has protection against arrest from the High Court in that case. The police filed a fresh case against him and registered his arrest. TNM has learnt that he is being taken to a hospital for a routine medical examination. AltNews founder Pratik Sinha told TNM that they were not allowed to meet Zubair and the police did not give any details about the FIR.
The arrest has been registered by the Delhi Police’s IFSO (Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations) special cell station, which tackles cyber crimes, including those against women and children. TNM has learnt that he has been arrested under section 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Delhi police has issued a statement on his arrest: "Today during the course of investigation of registered at PS-Special Cell u/s 153A/295A IPC alleged Mohammed Zubair was joined in the investigation of the case and after having sufficient evidence on record, he was arrested in the present case. He is being produced before the magistrate for seeking further PC remand for the purpose of the investigation of the case."
Mohammad Zubair is the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News and has been relentlessly debunking fake news for several years now. In May, Zubair was booked by the Uttar Pradesh police for a tweet where he called three controversial Hindu leaders — Yati Narasinghanand, Mahant Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop — ‘hatemongers’. Zubair was booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for outraging Hindu sentiments and Section 67 of the Information Technology (IT) Act. These Hindu leaders whom Zubair called hatemongers are known for making provocative and objectionable remarks against Muslims, and Yati Narsinghanand was also jailed in a hate speech case and later given bail.
Zubair was originally summoned for questioning in the 2020 POCSO case, but has been arrested in a different case. The POCSO case against Zubair was registered in 2020 over his tweet calling out an abusive user and confronting him. A user had abused Zubair in a reply to his tweet about a fact check, and Zubair had responded by sharing the user's profile picture with the caption: "Does your cute granddaughter know about your part-time job of abusing people on social media? I suggest you change your profile pic." Zubair had blurred out the minor girl's face while sharing it. Later, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked for action to be taken against Zubair following an official complaint from the abusive handle. The Delhi police’s cyber cell had then booked him under sections of the POCSO Act as well as the IT Act. At the time, Alt News had rubbished charges against Zubair that he had doxxed the minor. Zubair had then approached the Delhi High Court and the court had restrained the Delhi police from taking any coercive action against him.