Zubair gets bail in case over 2018 tweet, but will stay in jail

The Alt News cofounder remains in remand in connection with a clutch of cases filed in Uttar Pradesh.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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A Delhi court on Friday granted bail to Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair in a case filed against him by the Delhi police for hurting religious sentiments through a 2018 tweet that an anonymous tweeter had found offensive. Zubair, however, will remain in jail as he has been remanded in custody in a clutch of cases filed against him in Uttar Pradesh. He has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to quash the six FIRs filed against him in UP.

In his bail order, Additional Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala of Patiala House Courts conditioned it on the journalist furnishing a bond of Rs 50,000 and agreeing to not leaving India without the court's permission.

Jangala had reserved the bail order on Thursday after hearing arguments from Zubair's lawyers and Special Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, who was representing the police. The judge had asked the prosecutor why the statement of the “victim” had not been recorded.

“We don’t go by tweets, we go by the CrPC,” Jangala told Shrivastava. The SPP said the statement will be recorded in the course of the investigation.

After the hearing, Zubair moved the Supreme Court seeking to quash the six FIRs lodged against him by the Uttar Pradesh police - two in Hathras and one each in Lakhimpur Kheri, Sitapur, Muzaffarnagar, and Ghaziabad. He also challenged the setting up of a Special Investigation Team to probe the charges against him.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had extended his bail in the case filed in Sitapur but did not extend the relief to other cases against the journalist, who has been in custody since his arrest on June 27.

At Thursday's bail hearing, Zubair’s counsel Vrinda Grover denying the allegations of FCRA violations against him. Grover read out the donate section of the Alt News website, which states that they don't accept foreign donations as they are not registered under FCRA.

Grover also referred to the Razorpay CEO’s statement that the payment processing platform enabled only domestic payments. She also said that she had heard the prosecutor make a statement about the Pakistani international phone code +92 found in the excel sheets of Alt News funds, but it was a Microsoft Excel formula. She also said that if FCRA provisions were violated, it should not matter if the funds were from the United States or Pakistan, and naming countries like this in a court of law was unfortunate.

The prosecutor had earlier alleged that Zubair had been receiving foreign contributions from countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. On Thursday, he said Rs 56 lakh was credited to his account via Razorpay.

When the court asked why Zubair’s custody was necessary, the prosecutor said some people who had made the contributions were anonymous and would continue to remain so if Zubair was released.

Kisi Se Na Kehna, the 1983 Hrishikesh Mukherejee film from which Zubair had used a frame in the allegedly offensive 2018 tweet, was played in court on Thursday. Grover said that governments come and go but citizens have certain freedoms, including the freedom to crack a joke. Mukherejee, she said, was exercising that freedom when made the film.


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