In the case brought against him in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, for a tweet labelling Hindu priests “hate mongers,” the Supreme Court on Friday ordered a five-day interim bail for Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, stating that his personal liberty had been violated.
Zubair was instructed not to post any tweets or tamper with any evidence—including electronic evidence—until the case was heard again on July 12 by a panel of justices led by Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari. Zubair won’t be released right away because he’s being held in custody by the court for a different case that was filed in Delhi. Last Saturday, a Delhi court denied him bail.
The Supreme Court was obvious that its ruling only applied to the case in Uttar Pradesh.
Zubair appealed to the Supreme Court a decision made on June 10 by the Allahabad High Court that upheld the criminal case that had been brought against him in Sitapur because of his “hate monger” tweet. He cited a series of tweets that included the hashtags for police officials and called for his execution as evidence that he had received a death threat.
The decision was made a day after Zubair was denied bail by a Sitapur court and was given a four-day remand by the Uttar Pradesh Police. The Uttar Pradesh Police’s attorney general, Tushar Mehta, additional attorney general SV Raju, and additional advocate general Garima Parshad all objected to the bail, but the bench disregarded their arguments.
While adamant that there is no threat to Zubair’s life while he is under police protection, the three claimed Zubair withheld crucial information to generate an “artificial urgency” to request bail. They asserted that the complaint against him had nothing to do with his tweets and claimed that he was a member of a “larger syndicate” that received funding from nations hostile to India.
They continued, “This is a matter under investigation in the other case the Delhi Police has against him.” Zubair has been deprived of his liberty, according to the bench. “It is not true to say that there is no urgency. Zubair made decisions based on the potential loss of his freedom. As he was being taken into custody, that occurred. We ordered an urgent listing of the issue for this reason.
Until further orders from the regular bench regarding the terms and conditions that would be imposed by a Sitapur magistrate, the bench granted him bail. In Bengaluru or anywhere else, “the petitioner shall not tweet any messages and shall not tamper with any electronic or other evidence.”
Mehta stated that there is no dispute regarding the court’s decision to list the matter urgently.
“We are on the petitioner’s conduct,” He claimed Zubair’s plea made no mention of the court orders from Sitapur that were issued on July 7 rejecting his bail and giving custody to the Uttar Pradesh Police. “These facts are being knowingly and purposefully suppressed, you cannot play with the system like this.”
Zubair’s senior attorney Colin Gonsalves testified in court that his client’s tweet labelling Narsinghanand a “hate monger” could not be attributed to inciting animosity or upsetting religious beliefs.
He claimed that following an investigation into Narsinghanand’s hateful speeches against the Constitution, judges, and judiciary, the attorney general had sanctioned him for contempt of court.
According to him, Zubair’s tweet encourages secularism rather than hostility between communities. “I get put in jail for exposing this kind of hateful language. Those who deliver these speeches are freed on bail, and after I exposed them as secular tweeters, they return to the public eye and speak once more, Gonsalves claimed.
Mehta informed the jury that he was unwilling to defend Narsinghanand’s anti-Semitic remarks. “I’m not here to counter what Yati Narsinghanand said. They were detained for their actions and have since been arrested.
However, in this instance, the petitioner’s action is in question because his tweet caused a law-and-order incident that is currently being investigated. There is more than meets the eye, according to Mehta. “It’s not just about one tweet; it’s about his behaviour as a whole.
The question is whether he belongs to a syndicate for which he tweets sensationalised information and calls for violence. In his petition to the Supreme Court, he charged Zubair with hiding information about his Delhi case and the rejection of his bail. “These suppressions have to be explained.”
The police dropped the original case’s use of Section 67 of the Information Technology Act (publishing obscene content), according to Raju, who represented the chief of the Uttar Pradesh Police and the case’s investigating officer. Charges under Sections 295A of the Indian Penal Code (insulting religion and religious beliefs) and Section 153A (promoting hostility between religious groups) continue, he added.
Raju claimed that Zubair also targeted a revered Hindu priest from Sitapur named Bajrang Muni in his tweet. “When a hateful person calls a revered religious figure, it sounds like an attempt to incite violence. You have offended a religious community’s sensibilities, and a quashing petition or an appeal before the top court cannot determine whether you did so intentionally or as part of a larger conspiracy.