SC grants interim bail to Mohammed Zubair: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim bail to Mohammad Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, in all the FIRs lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh.
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SC grants interim bail to Mohammed Zubair
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna said that there is no justification for continuing custody of Zubair, especially since the allegations in the FIR registered in Uttar Pradesh are similar to the FIR of Delhi Police.
“The existence of the powers of arrest should be distinguished from the exercise of the powers of arrest,” Justice Chandrachud said.
It also combined all the six FIRs registered by the UP Police and transferred all the FIRs registered across the country as well as in UP to Delhi. The top court also dissolved the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the UP Police to probe the cases against Zubair.
The top court ordered that the transfer of the FIR would be applicable to all the existing FIRs and all the FIRs to be registered in future.
The apex court, while granting interim bail to Zubair, said that the Patiala House Court in Delhi had already granted him bail in a similar case registered by the Delhi Police.
The bench directed Zubair to produce a bail bond of Rs 20,000 before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Patiala House Court.
It said that immediately after submitting the bail bond, the superintendent of Tihar Jail should ensure that Zubair is released before 6 pm today.
In its order, the bench said, ‘Essentially the crux of the allegations is the tweets made by him. Delhi Police has done a very continuous investigation of him. We find no reason to deprive him of his liberty even more so to persist. We instruct Zubair to be released on bail on every FIR in UP, The existence of powers of arrest should be distinguished from the exercise of powers of arrest, which should be used sparingly. ,
SC grants interim bail to Mohammed Zubair in all six cases
The top court also said that Zubair can move the Delhi High Court to quash all or any of the FIRs.
UP Additional Advocate General Garima Prasad, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, urged the bench to impose a condition of bail on Zubair that he should not tweet again.
The bench rejected the request saying “We can’t say he won’t tweet again. It’s like telling a lawyer that you shouldn’t argue. How can we tell a journalist that he will not write? If there is any tweet against the law then he will be accountable. How can we pass an advance order that no one will say…”
During the hearing today, advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, argued that “we are in the age of digital media and social media” and that is why the role of someone rejecting the propaganda may bother someone but the law against Zubair cannot be made a weapon.
AAG Prasad said that the accused is not a journalist and calls himself a fact checker. “Instead of fact-checking, he posts tweets which are going viral and spreading venom,” Prasad said.
He added that Zubair is “paid for these tweets and he is paid more for malicious tweets”.
“The state is conscious that there is a person here who instead of informing the police takes advantage of videos, speeches etc which can create communal divide. The state of UP is not here because of some tweets, but because of the violence that followed such tweets.”
Zubair had approached the apex court either seeking quashing of all the FIRs registered against him in Uttar Pradesh or placing him in an alternate club and also challenging the formation of the SIT.
Zubair challenged the FIR registered at six places in Uttar Pradesh – Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad and Hathras (two FIRs).
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh Police not to take any preliminary action against Zubair in any FIR registered in the state till July 20.
The top court had stayed the preliminary action against Zubair in respect of five FIRs, observing that it appears that if he is granted bail in one, he is being detained in another FIR and the contents of the FIR appear to be similar gives.
In the petition, Zubair said that without following the due process established by law, his personal liberty has been completely jeopardized, and requested the court to either quash the six FIRs in UP or transfer all of them to Delhi. Add to that the FIR, where he was first arrested. To avoid multiplicity of proceedings and prolonged detention.
The petition has also challenged the formation of a two-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) by the Uttar Pradesh government.
The Uttar Pradesh government had last week constituted the SIT to probe six cases registered against Zubair in different districts of the state. The SIT included Inspector General Preetinder Singh, who is currently posted in the Department of Prisons Administration and Reforms, and Deputy Inspector General of Police Amit Verma.
Zubair also sought interim bail in all the FIRs.
The Supreme Court on July 12 extended the interim bail granted to Zubair till September 7 in a case registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police in Sitapur. The top court had clarified that his interim bail order is only in relation to the FIR registered in Sitapur and has nothing to do with a separate case registered against him in Delhi.
Zubair had challenged the Allahabad High Court order refusing to quash the FIR lodged against him by the Uttar Pradesh Police in Sitapur for allegedly calling three Hindu saints “spreaders of hatred”. .
The Sitapur Court had sent him to judicial custody and his bail application was rejected.
On July 4, after two cases were registered against Zubair in the district, the Hathras Court also sent Zubair to 14-day judicial custody. Deepak Sharma had registered a case in 2018 for Zubair’s remarks on Hindu gods and goddesses in a tweet.
Last week, the Lakhimpur Court sent Zubair to 14-day judicial custody.
The Delhi court had also sent him to judicial custody in the case registered against him. Delhi Police had arrested him on June 27 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets. (ANI)