Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was brought to Bengaluru by the Delhi police on Thursday, June 30, to recover electronic evidence related to the tweet posted by him in 2018, for which he has been arrested under charges of hurting religious sentiments. Two days ago, Delhi's Patiala House Court had granted the police four days’ custody after the police’s claim that Zubair has remained non-cooperative during interrogation and since Zubair’s laptop that he used at the time is yet to be recovered. Zubair was arrested on Monday night, June 27, after he was summoned in a 2020 POCSO case, but was arrested in a new case filed against him over a 2018 tweet.
Meanwhile, Zubair on Thursday moved the Delhi High Court challenging the Patiala House Court order remanding him to four days in Delhi police custody. Zubair’s counsel advocate Vrinda Grover challenged the Patiala House Court order before a vacation bench of the Delhi High Court. The HC has agreed to hear Zubair’s plea on Friday, July 1.
Earlier, during the hearing before the Patiala House Court, Zubair's counsel Vrinda Grover said the photo which Zubair used in the tweets is from an old Hindi film released in 1983 made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee — Kisi Se Na Kehna — and that the movie was not banned. Zubair had also told the court that the police has asked for the phone he used in 2018, from which the tweet was made, but he no longer has that phone and now he is using another device.
However, the court rejected the submission, saying it was “of no assistance to the accused at this stage.” The judge then directed that Zubair be produced before the court on July 2. Police had sought an extension of Zubair's custody by five days.
Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday for under charges of hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets posted in 2018, after the police took note of a tweet by an anonymous Twitter account flagging his four-year-old tweet on June 19.
A day later, on June 20, a case against Zubair was registered under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language etc.) and 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The Delhi police have been facing massive criticism from media organisations as well as international bodies for arresting Zubair for an old tweet, saying that he is being targeted for calling out hate speeches and controversial remarks by Hindu extremist leaders. The Editors Guild of India has described Zubair's arrest as "extremely disturbing". Amnesty India issued a statement condemning Zubair's arrest and said that "harassment and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders for tirelessly seeking truth and justice have become alarmingly commonplace in India." The Congress, TMC as well as Left parties also joined the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India and the Mumbai Press Club in demanding that Zubair be released immediately.