The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) today contended before the Delhi High Court the submission of police that no cognizable offence was made out against fact-check website Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, facing prosecution in a case of allegedly threatening and torturing a minor girl on social media, was "incorrect".

The NCPCR claimed the Delhi Police's stand indicates the "casual attitude" of the authorities and urged the high court to direct the police to conduct a thorough investigation in the case and complete it on priority.

The case, which was listed for hearing today, will now be heard on December 7.

The Delhi Police had on August 9, 2020 registered an FIR against Zubair for alleged offences under the Information Technology Act for allegedly threatening and torturing a girl child on Twitter on a complaint received from the NCPCR.

The NCPCR complaint referred to the photo of a girl and her father shared by Zubair on Twitter during an online spat with the minor's father.

The child rights body said the information provided by police in its May status report clearly shows that petitioner Zubair has been trying to evade the investigation and was not fully cooperating.

The malafide intention of the petitioner to conceal the facts is evident which is seen to be causing a serious delay in the investigation of this case. The submission made by the Delhi Police as to no cognisable offence being made out against the petitioner is also incorrect and indicates the casual attitude of the police in this case, it said in the affidavit.

NCPCR said retweeting the girl's picture contributed to disclosure of her identity through her father and seriously jeopardised her safety and security and also exposed her to harassment on social media platform like Twitter where lewd and disgraceful comments were published about her by the users.

The comments made on the picture of the minor girl also included comments which were in the nature of sexual harassment and was seen to be in violation of the provisions of the POCSO Act, IPC and IT Act, it said.

It said even after knowing the fact that several comments were being made on his post against the minor girl which were indecent and sexual in nature, Zubair neither tried to delete the tweet nor informed the authorities concerned about the users who had violated the girl's rights.

The NCPCR said the case involving harassment and online stalking of a minor girl is a "serious problem" that has arisen from the wide use of social media platforms like Twitter, and the act of Zubair has not only violated the rights of the minor but also the provisions of law.

In view of the violations committed against the minor girl in the said case and the information provided by the Delhi Police in its status report dated May 14, 2022, the NCPCR requests this court to direct the Delhi Police to conduct a thorough investigation in this case and complete the same on priority, the affidavit said.

The High Court had in September 2020 directed the police not to take any coercive steps against Zubair in the case. It had also directed Twitter India to cooperate with police in the investigation.

The case was lodged on a complaint by the NCPCR after which Zubair had approached the high court seeking quashing of the FIR against him.

Zubair had called the FIR an absolutely frivolous complaint.

His counsel had earlier submitted he was being trolled for his posts on Twitter by a man who abused, demeaned and even left communally charged comments on Zubair's Twitter page.

Later, the journalist posted the display picture of the man, standing with his minor daughter whose face was cautiously blurred by the petitioner and wrote a tweet. After this, a complaint was made against him with the NCPCR and an FIR was lodged.

The Delhi Police had initiated action under Section 175 IPC against Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey and Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari. Delhi Police filed a Kalandara under Section 175 before a Delhi Court against the duo, in relation to an FIR registered against Mohammed Zubair.

With PTI inputs