On June 27 Zubair Mohammed Co-founder of a fact-checking website Alt News was arrested based on a complaint against a tweet. A twitter handle called Hanuman Bhakth had filed a complaint by tagging Delhi Police on a tweet alleging that Zubair hurt his religious sentiments. Police said they filed an FIR against Zubair under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups).The Delhi police’s intelligence and fusion unit arrested Zubair which is a part of Cyber Cell.
The 2018 tweet showed an image of a hotel with its board reading “Honeymoon Hotel” repainted to “Hanuman Hotel”. The alleged photo was actually a scene from a 1983 Bollywood comedy movie directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The complainant tagged Delhi Police under the tweet and wrote “Linking our God Hanuman ji with honeymoon is a direct insult of hindus because he is a brahmachaari, Kindly take action against this guy”.
Police besides invoking provisions of the IPC have also booked Zubair for offences under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act(FCRA) and sections 201(destruction of evidence) and 120b(criminal conspiracy). At the hearing today after the end of four day remand Special Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava representing the Delhi Police sought further custody of 14 days in view of freshly added offences.
He also contended that Zubair had accepted donations from Pakistan, Syria and Australia, reported Bar and Bench.
Delhi Police on thursday conducted a search at Zubair’s residence in Bengaluru.
At the initial period of arrest Pratik Sinha, a co-founder of Alt News said that neither he nor Mr. Zubair’s lawyer were provided with a copy of the FIR on which the arrest was made. They were also initially not told where he was being detained.
Zubair was produced before a magistrate on Monday night and a one day custody was granted to the Police. Following this, he was allowed to meet his lawyer. A court on tuesday remanded him in custody for a further 4 days. The Patiala house court rejected Zubair’s bail plea on July 2nd. He was also sentenced to 14 days Judicial custody by the Sitapur court on july 4th. He will still remain in Tihar jail where he has been remanded since his arrest on June 27th.
The anonymous twitter account “Hanuman Bhakth” was created on October had just one follower until tuesday morning, the follower count had rapidly increased.
Police alleged Zubair had controversial tweets in effort to get fame. Meanwhile, several politicians such as Asaduddin Owaisi, Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor , journalists such as Rana Ayub, Rohini Singh and DIGIPUB a organization of digital news media, The Press Club of India have strongly condemned and demanded for his release.
International bodies such as The International Press Institute (IPI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have also urged for his release.
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