Mohammed Zubair released from jail 24 days after arrest for 2018 tweet

The Supreme Court granted interim bail to Zubair saying that there is no justification to keep Zubair in jail when he has got bail in a similar case filed by the Delhi police.
Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair
Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair
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Alt News co-founder and journalist Mohammed Zubair walked out of jail on Wednesday, July 20, after spending 24 days in jail since his arrest by the Delhi police in connection with a 2018 tweet​​. After the Supreme Court granted him interim bail, a Delhi court on Wednesday evening issued release warrants in seven cases filed against the Alt News co-founder. Duty Magistrate Amardeep Kaur issued the order after Zubair’s counsel filed bail bond in all six cases lodged in UP and one in Delhi, in which he was granted bail earlier.

Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 under charges of hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets. Multiple FIRs were lodged against him in UP — two in Hathras and one each in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, and at Chandauli police station for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. Zubair had moved the apex court seeking that either the six FIRs in UP be quashed, or they be clubbed with the FIR lodged against him in Delhi. 

The top court ordered that Zubair will be released on interim bail in all the FIRs lodged in UP after depositing a bail bond of Rs 20,000 with Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Patiala House Court. The court had ordered the Superintendent at the Tihar Jail to take necessary steps to ensure that Zubair is released from judicial custody no later than by 6 pm. 

Granting Zubair bail, the Supreme Court said that there is no justification to keep Zubair in jail when he is being investigated in a similar case by the Delhi police and has secured interim bail in that case. The SC said that "it finds no reason or justification for the deprivation of his liberty to persist any further" and ordered the disbanding of the SIT, constituted by the UP police, to probe the six FIRs lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh. "It is a settled principle of law, that the existence of the power of arrest must be distinguished from the exercise of arrest and the exercise of the power of arrest must be pursued sparingly," it said.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna also refused to restrain Zubair from tweeting in the future as sought by the UP government, saying can a lawyer be restrained from arguing.

"How can a journalist be restrained from tweeting and writing? If he violates any law by tweeting or for that matter any citizen speaking in public or private, then he can be proceeded as per the law", the bench said in a lengthy order passed after more than nearly two-hour hearing. 

The court said the directions for the transfer of investigations of the FIRs which have been registered in Uttar Pradesh to the special cell of Delhi Police shall apply to all the existing FIRs forming the subject matter of the tweets as noted earlier and to any future FIR to be registered against him under the same subject matter.

"Having found from the record that the petitioner has been subjected to a fairly sustained investigation by the Delhi police, we find no reason or justification for the deprivation of the liberty of the petitioner to persist any further,” the bench said. "Consequently, we are of the view that the petitioner shall be released on interim bail in each of the FIRs which form the subject matter of these proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution,” the apex court said.

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