The Supreme Court has granted interim bail for 5 days to Mohammad Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website Altnews only about an FIR filed at Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh. A bench constituting Justice Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari said that the relief is subject to the condition that Mohammad Zubair will not move out of the jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court and will not post any other tweets. And the bench made it clear that it had not stayed the investigation in the FIR.
In a matter where he had filed a petition for arrest and challenged the Allahabad High Court order refusing to quash FIR registered for a tweet in which he allegedly called three Hindu seers “hate mongers”. And the case against Zubair was registered by the UP Police for hurting religious sentiments based on a tweet Zubair had put out against Mahant Bajrang Muni, Yati Narsinghanand and Swami Anand Swaroop referring to them as “Hate Mongers”.
Zubair was booked under Section 295A, deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any community by insulting its religious beliefs under the India Penal Code and Section 67, publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appeared for Mohammad Zubair and stated in the Supreme Court that there is a serious threat to his life. He also argued that the offences alleged are not made out since Zubair had not raised his voice against the hate speech. He also added the Bhajan Lal decision and said that “the person who made hate speech, they have been released on bail and the person who exposed them he is in jail.”
ASG SV Raju appearing for the Investigation Officer argued that the act of publicly calling a religious leader a hate monger has the potential to outrage the religious feelings of a particular community which would incite violence.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the UP government and argued that this is not about one tweet by Zubair but whether he is part of a syndicate which is regularly posting such tweets intending to destabilise the country.
The Supreme Court in its judgement said that the conditions of Sitapur Court include that petitioner shall not tweet and he will not leave the jurisdiction of the court of the first judicial magistrate and will not leave Delhi. And this order is only on Sitapur FIR and not on any other FIR. The Petitioner has been ordered by the Supreme Court to not tamper with any electronic evidence in Banglore or anywhere else.
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