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Alt News co-founder Zubair’s bail plea in Delhi case deferred to July 14

Mohammed Zubair, a journalist and co-founder of fact checking website Alt News, being taken to jail from Patiala House court after court sent him to 14-day judicial custody, in New Delhi. File

Mohammed Zubair, a journalist and co-founder of fact checking website Alt News, being taken to jail from Patiala House court after court sent him to 14-day judicial custody, in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: PTI

A Delhi court on Tuesday, deferred the hearing to July 14 in the bail plea of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, in connection with the Delhi Police Special Cell (IFSO) case against him for a 2018 tweet of his. 

Mr. Zubair had moved a fresh bail application in this case before the court of Additional Sessions Judge Devendra Kumar Jangala after the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate denied him bail on July 2, and remanded him to judicial custody for 14 days.

On Tuesday, Mr. Jangala heard preliminary submissions from Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared for the journalist. Minutes into the hearing, Senior Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava appeared in court virtually and sought an adjournment till July 14, saying he would be out of Delhi till then. 

Mr. Srivastava told the court that he was in Bhopal and was unable to get back to Delhi before July 14 because of delays in train schedules due to excessive rains in several parts of the country. Ms. Grover sought for the plea to be taken up sooner saying, “This is about a man’s liberty.” She added that some other prosecutor could appear or Mr. Srivastava could appear virtually to argue the matter. 

However, the court decided to list the bail plea for the next hearing on July 14 at 12:30 p.m. 

Initially, Mr. Srivastava told the court that the bail plea should be put off because the Supreme Court was set to hear a “connected matter” later in the day. After perusing the top court’s order granting interim bail to Mr. Zubair earlier, Mr. Jangala asked how this matter was connected given that the SC order clearly states it was only for the Sitapur FIR, and the instant plea was in the Delhi FIR. 

In her preliminary submissions, Ms. Grover told the court that “mala fide is writ large” in the case, adding that the case was registered by the Delhi Police at 2 a.m. on June 20 based on one Twitter user’s social media complaint - a user who had only one follower till then, and had posted only that tweet since its creation in 2021. 

She added that Mr. Zubair’s tweet was an image of a 1983-CBFC-approved film, Kissi Se Na Kehna - an image that hundreds of other users have posted on social media, and those that news publications have also used. Ms. Grover submitted that despite this, only Mr. Zubair has been accused of such crimes for his tweet. 

The tweet in question was posted with an image from the abovementioned film, which showed a fictional hotel’s name being changed from “Honeymoon Hotel” to “Hanuman Hotel”. With this, the text read: “Before 2014: Honeymoon hotel/After 2014: Hanuman hotel”. 

The Delhi Police had registered the FIR against Mr. Zubair for this tweet under Sections 153A and 295 of the Indian Penal Code. As of latest submissions in court, the police have said they are no longer looking into Section 295 but have now “added” Sections 295A, 201 and 120B of the IPC and Section 35 of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act.


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Printable version | Oct 1, 2022 7:00:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/alt-news-co-founder-zubairs-bail-plea-in-delhi-case-deferred-to-july-14/article65630593.ece