Breaking: SC Grants Interim Bail To Mohammad Zubair In UP Case, Directs Him Not To Tweet, He Will Remain In Custody For Delhi Case
The Supreme Court today granted conditional interim bail to Mohammad Zubair for a period of five days in the case registered in Uttar Pradesh. The Court imposed a condition that he should not leave the jurisdiction of the Delhi court since he is in judicial custody in that case. The Court also imposed conditions that Zubair shall not tweet in the meantime or tamper with evidence.
The order was passed on the petition filed by the co-founder of Alt News, Mohammad Zubair challenging the order of the Allahabad High Court dismissing his petition seeking quashing of FIR filed against him at Khairabad Police Station, Sitapur under Section 295-A of the IPC and Section 67 of the the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The Vacation Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice J. K. Maheshwari said, "let the regular bench hear the case. In the meanwhile, we will give you interim bail for a few days on the condition that you will not leave the jurisdiction of the Court and you will not put any further tweets. On that condition, we will give you interim bail, let the matter go the regular Bench".
The Bench clarified that it is concerned only with the case registered in UP since Zubair is in custody in relation to another case in Delhi.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the state of UP made a preliminary submission stating, "Yesterday the matter was mentioned for taking up the matter. Your Lordships may take up the matter, I have no problem. Yesterday his bail was dismissed. He filed an affidavit suppressing this. By a judicial speaking order, he is in Police remand. That is not pointed out to this court. The remand was granted in the afternoon before the filing of the affidavit. Such conduct may not be accepted. This is something very serious".
The Court responded saying: "This should have been mentioned."
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for Zubair replied, "The order came very late in the night. That does not affect this case".
Mehta said that if the relief as prayed for is granted, it would amount to a speaking order being set aside.
Gonsalves said that Zubair admits the tweet in question. "I am not speaking against any religion. I am only speaking against hate speech. These persons were arrested for hate speech and have been released on bail. I am in jail and they have been released. Where is the crime?"
All are on bail, the secular tweeter is in jail, Gonsalves said. "When I say hate monger, I am not wrong". "I am not insulting any religion, I am defending the constitution", Gonsalves submitted. Gonsalves read the Tweet of Zubair, the alleged threats received by him and the order of the Allahabad High Court and said that on account of the order of the High Court, Zubair is being remanded by the lower courts. "I am promoting secularism, not hate speech", Gonsalves said.
Mehta responded by saying, Whether he is part of a syndicate to tweet, to disrupt harmony in the society is being investigated. He was also arrested by Delhi Police, there is some kind of money angle, foreign contributions from some countries have been accepted. This is to the knowledge of the petitioner since it argued before Delhi Court and it remanded the petitioner. This is suppressed. The Delhi High Court did not interfere. So far as this FIR is concerned, Section 67 of the IT Act is dropped. After this tweet, there was a law and order situation. "He does not place anything on record and now says he is a fact-checker", Metha said. "One isolated tweet is not the offence, his criminal conduct is under investigation. He is a habitual offender" Mehta said.
Mehta also said that Zubair has deleted many tweets.
You are in police custody, now you say you will be killed. You are in police protection, who is going to kill you, Mehta said in response to the plea that Zubair's life is under threat.
Additional Solicitor General S. V. Raju appearing for the Investigating officer said, the movement you call a religious leader a hate monger it will have consiquences. The Mahant he tweeted about has a large following. What was his intention while tweeting can't be considered while considering a petition under Section 482 CrPC.
"You have outraged the religious feeling of a large number of followers of the Bajrangi Baba. You call a religious guru with large followers a hate monger, prima facie 295A is made out. It requires investigation", Raju said. He added that Zubair wants to destroy evidence in Bangalore.
Zubair has sought direction for staying the investigation on the FIR filed against him in Sitapur and for the Respondents not to proceed, prosecute or arrest him in relation to the FIR.
Zubair has in his petition claimed that the FIR filed against him is only to harass him. He has also claimed that the allegations against him are completely false, baseless and vague. He claims that the FIR filed against him is untenable in law and amounts to abuse of the process of law and any actions arising out of it would amount to a travesty of justice.
FIR was registered against Zubair for a tweet calling Hindu seers 'Hate mongers'.
The Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court had held that "the perusal of the record makes out, prima facie, offences at this stage and there appears to be sufficient ground for investigation in the case."
"The evidence has to be gathered after a thorough investigation and placed before the Court concerned on the basis of which alone the Court concerned can come to a conclusion one way or the other on the allegations levelled by the petitioner. If the allegations are bereft of truth and made maliciously, the investigation will say so", the Allahabad High Court had said.