Zubair gets interim bail from Supreme Court in UP police case over 'hatemonger' tweet

The Supreme Court granted bail to Zubair on the condition that he will not leave Delhi and that he will not post any tweets during the bail period.
File image of Mohammed Zubair
File image of Mohammed Zubair
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The Supreme Court has granted interim bail to journalist and Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who was arrested by the Sitapur police in Uttar Pradesh for a recent tweet in which he referred to three extremist Hindu seers as ‘hatemongers’. The five-day interim bail was granted on Friday, July 8, on the condition that he will not leave the jurisdiction of the Delhi magistrate and will not post any tweets. Another condition imposed by the apex court was that Zubair will not be allowed to “tamper” with electronic evidence in his devices in Bengaluru or anywhere else. Further, the court made it clear that the interim bail applies only to the case registered in Sitapur, and not in the 2018 tweets case.

The order came in response to a petition filed by Zubair, seeking protection from arrest and challenging the Allahabad High Court order refusing to quash the FIR registered for a tweet in which he allegedly called three Hindu seers ‘hate mongers’. The matter was listed for hearing on Friday after advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing on behalf of Zubair, submitted before a Supreme Court vacation bench on Thursday that there was a serious threat to the journalist’s life. “His job is to fact-check news, and he was doing the role of identifying hate speeches. A look at the FIR shows that there is no crime. We went to Allahabad High Court but no relief was granted. We seek bail in an emergency. There are death threats on the internet to him,” the advocate had submitted, seeking urgent listing on Thursday afternoon.

However, the bench pointed out that the hearing had to be assigned by the Chief Justice of India, following which the counsel requested that it be listed on Friday. The bench agreed to do so, “subject to assignment” by Chief Justice NV Ramana. Earlier, on Thursday, a Sitapur court granted custody of Zubair to the Uttar Pradesh police for 14 days. The Uttar Pradesh police had registered an FIR in June against Zubair for a tweet calling three Hindu seers ‘hatemongers’, made amidst the controversy surrounding Nupur Sharma’s contentious remarks against Prophet Mohammed.

The case was filed under sections 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code and section 67 of the IT Act in Sitapur, on a complaint by Hindu Sher Sena Sitapur district president Bhagwan Sharan on June 1.

Zubair was earlier arrested by the Delhi police, who accused him of hurting Hindu sentiments through a tweet posted in 2018. He was arrested 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), and later, section 20B of the IPC (Criminal Conspiracy) and Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act were also applied in the FIR.

He was denied bail by a Delhi court in this case on July 2, and seeking further time to investigate, the police had alleged that Zubair and Alt News, which he co-founded, was receiving funds from countries like Pakistan and Syria illegally. Later, Alt News issued a clarification statement, which said that the organisation only accepts payments from Indian bank accounts. “The allegations claim that we have received funds from foreign sources from whom we cannot receive donations. These allegations are categorically false,” the statement said, adding, “Our payment platform through which we receive donations does not allow receipt of funds from foreign sources, and we have received donations from Indian bank accounts only,” Alt News said.  

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