A Delhi court on Saturday denied Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair’s bail request and sentenced him to 14 days in judicial detention in connection with a “objectionable tweet” he sent in 2018 against a Hindu god.
The bail application was denied due to the nature and gravity of the charges against the accused, as well as the fact that the case is still in the early stages of investigation. KPS Malhotra, Deputy Commissioner of Police, informed the media of the court’s ruling at 3 p.m.
The judges were supposed to pronounce the judgement at 4 p.m. However, the court’s ruling on Zubair’s bail was announced at 7 p.m. According to Delhi Police, Pravada Media received donations from several countries, notably Pakistan, and the accused is the company’s director.
After the open court reconvened late in the evening, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria issued the decision.
The judge reserved the ruling earlier in the day, following a hearing in which Delhi Police claimed Zubair should be transferred to 14-day judicial detention when his five-day police remand expired on Saturday.
“Since the matter is at the initial stage of investigation and overall facts and circumstances of the case and nature and gravity of the offences alleged against the accused, no ground for grant of bail is made out. Bail application of accused is accordingly dismissed. Accordingly, accused is remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.”
The order comes after the Delhi Police added charges of criminal conspiracy, causing the disappearance of evidence, and breaking foreign funding guidelines to Zubair’s FIR on Saturday.
The accusations have been added to those previously filed against the co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News for infringing on religious sentiments. The news broke just before a magistrate court hearing on Zubair’s bail application in the case.
The Delhi Police arrested Zubair on Monday for allegedly infringing on religious emotions in a March 2018 tweet. A magistrate had originally sentenced him to a day in police detention. On Tuesday, the Patiala House Court in Delhi remanded him in police detention till July 2.
After Zubair challenged his police custody, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the police on Friday.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Delhi High Court on Friday that the filing of the FIR against Zubair was “just [the] commencement of proceedings.”
While rejecting the bail application, the judge noted the addition of new sections during the course of the investigation. On claims that the seizure of the laptop and mobile phone was illegal and violated the accused’s privacy, the court noted that it was part of the police file that the mobile phone confiscated from the accused on June 27 was found to have no data.
In response to the accused’s claim that his prior phone had been stolen, the court stated, “Nothing was found on record to prove that any mobile phone of the accused was lost, albeit this plea has now been taken in the present application.”
The court also stated that the accused’s concern about the sealing of electronic devices could not be resolved at this time since the investigation into the data is still in its early stages and the electronic devices seized during the execution of search warrants are still being investigated.
“As regards the plea that the alleged tweet of the accused for which accused has been arrested is of the year 2018 and part of Hindi movie ‘Kissi Se Na Kehna’ and so offences under sections 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) IPC are not made out, are of no assistance to the accused as Section 35 (Punishment for contravention of any provision of the) FC(R) Act have also been added and investigation qua it is also pending.”
Several media sources have condemned Zubair’s imprisonment and demanded his unconditional release. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that journalists anywhere in the world should not be imprisoned for what they write, tweet, or say.