A Delhi court granted bail to Alt News Co-Founder Mohammad Zubair on Friday in connection with a “objectionable” tweet he posted in 2018 against a Hindu god.
Zubair was given bail on a bail bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety of the same amount, and he was ordered not to leave the country without the court’s prior permission and to return his passport to the investigating agency within three days of his release.
Zubair had applied to the Sessions Court after Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria denied him bail on July 2. Zubair was arrested on June 27 and has been detained since then.
He was arrested under Indian Penal Code Sections 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds, etc.) and 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class). Later, Zubair was charged under Sections 295A, 201, and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, as well as Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
The court also ordered Zubair not to commit the offence again and to ensure that his tweet or retweet, or any item on social media site, does not even cross the line into an offence punishable under Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case and the fact that the accused is not required for any custodial interrogation, I am inclined to allow the present bail moved on behalf of application applicant/accused Mohammed Zubair. The applicant is admitted to bail, he shall not tamper with evidence nor otherwise indulge in any act or omission that is unlawful or that would prejudice the proceedings in the pending matter. The applicant/accused will join the investigation as and when called by the SHO (station house officer)/IO (investigating officer) to do so,” said the court.
On June 27, Delhi Police detained Zubair for allegedly infringing on religious sentiments in one of his tweets. According to KPS Malhotra, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Cyber Cell, a complaint against him was launched earlier in June under sections 153A and 295A of the IPC.
On July 2, a magistrate’s court denied Zubair’s bail application and sentenced him to 14 days in judicial custody (JC) in the case, citing the nature and gravity of the charges against the accused and noting that the case was still in its early stages of inquiry.
After a five-day inquiry, the court transferred him to JC. The complaint in Delhi is one of several filed against Zubair. In addition, cases have been filed against him in the Uttar Pradesh towns of Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, and Hathras.
The Supreme Court in the Sitapur case last Tuesday extended Zubair’s interim bail until further orders. The bail, however, would have no influence on other cases.
The court also stated that it was not suspending the probe. According to the FIR, Zubair’s 2018 tweet about renaming a “Honeymoon Hotel” after the Hindu god Hanuman is an insult to their religion.
According to the FIR, Zubair’s words and image against a certain religious community were highly offensive and more than enough to create feelings of hatred among individuals, which can be damaging to the maintenance of public order in the society.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, Zubair’s lawyer, stated that the case was filed as a vindictive effort to punish Zubair’s fact-checking journalism. She pointed out that the Tweet featured a screenshot of a 1983 movie with a satirical comment and that it had not caused any controversy for four years.
The Supreme Court granted Zubair interim release in one case (Sitapur Police FIR), which was filed in response to a tweet labelling Yati Narsinghanand, Bajrang Muni, and Anand Swaroop as “hate-mongers.”
Zubair will not be released despite being given bail in the Delhi FIR because he has been held in UP Police FIRs. Meanwhile, Zubair has filed another appeal in the Supreme Court, requesting that the six UP Police FIRs be dismissed.