Atul Shrivastava, representing Delhi Police, said there are donations from countries like Pakistan and Syria and hence the case is not just about a simple tweet when Zubair’s lawyer said, ‘The mentioned tweet belonged to the comedy ‘Kissi Se Na Kehna’, which was not censored
Delhi: A Delhi court on Saturday rejected the bail plea of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of Alt News, and sent him to 14-day judicial custody, citing the nature and gravity of the offences against the accused. It also observed that the matter is at the initial stage of investigation.
“Since the matter is at the initial stage of investigation and overall facts and circumstances of the case and nature and gravity of the offences alleged against the accused, no ground for grant of bail is made out. Bail application of accused is accordingly dismissed. Accordingly, accused is remanded to judicial custody for 14 days,” the judge said in the order.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria pronounced the judgement after the open court reconvened late in the evening. Earlier in the day, the judge had reserved its order.
Earlier in the day, the police had informed that the court had sent Zubair to 14-day judicial custody even when the court had reserved its order. However, after the the accused’s lawyer questioned the report, DCP K P S Malhotra clarified, “I had a word with my IO, I misheard it due to noise and inadvertently the message was posted in the broadcast.”
Allegation of leak
Soon after the news of Zubair’s bail plea being rejected made rounds even before it was pronounced, his lawyer Soutik Banerjee alleged that Delhi Police DCP KPS Malhotra “leaked the order to the media”.
He called for an introspection behind the leakage of the magistrate’s order before it was officially pronounced.
“Arguments took place until lunch and the judge reserved the matter for judgment. The judge hasn’t come after lunch yet. Shocked to see that DCP KPS Malhotra has leaked in the media that our bail plea has been rejected and 14-day judicial custody granted,” Banerjee said.
Calling the entire unfolding of events “scandalous”, the lawyer said that it “speaks the status of rule of law in our country”.
“Extremely scandalous and speaks of the status of rule of law in our country today that even before the judicial magistrate has sat and pronounced the order, police has leaked the order to media. How KPS Malhotra knows what the order is beyond me. This calls for introspection,” he said.
Delhi Police arrested Zubair on 27 June in a case related to an objectionable tweet he had posted in 2018 against a Hindu deity. He stands accused of hurting ‘religious sentiments’.
Presenting the argument in the court on Saturday, Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing Zubair, said, “The mentioned tweet belonged to film ‘Kissi Se Na Kehna’ by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, it’s a lovely comedy and was allowed by the censor board…They say the tweet is provocative and sensitive, but still no direction from Twitter to remove it.”
Besides, the lawyer argued that formatting the phone is not illegal. “I was not aware of the FIR and phone was not summoned… It’s not illegal to format my phone. It is not arms and ammunition, or a drug… It’s not illegal to format my phone… I take serious legal and constitutional objections,” Grover said.
Atul Shrivastava, representing Delhi Police, however sought the dismissal of the bail plea stating that there are donations from countries like Pakistan and Syria and therefore the case is “not just of a simple tweet”.
“It is not a case of time-barred… It is still a continuing offence as the tweet is still there… When the film was released, it was not the age of the internet. Donations are from Pakistan, Syria, so considering gravity, it’s not just a case of a simple tweet…accused is Pravda Media director, he smartly deleted everything…In such circumstances, bail application should be dismissed…deletion of data from phone after FIR is important.”
Zubair got funding from Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries
The Delhi Police IFSO unit on Saturday said that it has noticed during its social media analysis that the Twitter handles that had tweeted in support of Zubair after his arrest were “mostly” from Middle Eastern countries and Pakistan.
“During social media analysis, it was noticed that Twitter handles supporting Mohammad Zubair after his arrest, were from Pakistan and mostly Middle Eastern countries like UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait,” said the IFSO unit official.
The police further said that from the analysis of the reply received from Razorpay Payment gateway, various transactions, with phone numbers or IP addresses outside India, were from locations including Bangkok, Manama, North-Holland, Singapore, Victoria, New York, England, Riyadh Region.
The other locations, as stated by the police, include Baladiyat ad Dawhah, Sharjah, Stockholm, Aichi, Central, Western and Eastern Provinces of UAE, Abu Dhabi, Washington DC, Kansas, New Jersey, Ontario, California, Texas, Lower Saxony, Bern, Dubai, Uusimaa, and Scotland.
“A total of about Rs 2,31,933 have been received by Pravda Media, Alt News parent company,” the police said.
Delhi Police have, hence, added three new Sections — 201 (for the destruction of evidence – formatted phone and deleted tweets), 120-(B) (for criminal conspiracy) of IPC and 35 of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, in the matter.
With input from agencies