Delhi court reserves order on Md Zubair's bail plea
A Delhi court will pronounce its order Friday on the bail plea filed by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in a case related to an objectionable tweet he had posted in 2018 against a Hindu deity.
New Delhi: A Delhi court will pronounce its order Friday on the bail plea filed by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in a case related to an objectionable tweet he had posted in 2018 against a Hindu deity. Additional Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala on Thursday reserved the order after hearing arguments from the counsel appearing for the accused as well as the prosecution.
A magisterial court had on July 2 dismissed his bail plea and sent him to 14-day judicial custody (JC) in the case, citing the nature and gravity of the offences against the accused and observing that the matter was at the initial stage of the investigation. The court had sent him to JC after his five-day custodial interrogation. The accused has challenged the magisterial court order denying him bail. During the arguments on Thursday the prosecution submitted that along with the picture in the centre of the case, Zubair had used 'before 2014' and 'after 2014' with the intention to incite the people.
The sessions court then asked what changed in 2014, except the government, and if the tweet was a criticism of the government. Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava said the accused wanted to incite people and create ill will among them. The court further asked the prosecution if the probe agency had collected statements of people who felt offended. "How many people felt offended? How many statements you've collected," the judge asked. The prosecutor told the court that it would be done in the due course. Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, told the court that no foreign contribution was received by the accused personally or his company Pravda media. "Our website says we do not receive foreign contributions since we are not registered under FCRA provisions.
All this is on my website and in the public domain. My website says only Indian citizens with Indian accounts can contribute. We ask for all information of donor, including PAN number, e-mail i.d.," the counsel said. She further said that the CEO of Razor Pay, through which the company received money, put out a statement after his arrest that Alt News was enabled to receive only domestic payment. "Therefore, the claim, that Pravda Media received money from certain Muslim countries is unfortunate, and only to sensitise the matter," she said. She added that in a democracy, "fake news is not going to help people to make their decision, that's why people with little money also are helping my work." The counsel further said, "An Indian citizen may live in other countries, and if they pay money it doesn't become foreign money.
If they send money to someone in India, the IP address will be of the country they're living in, but that does not become foreign money. The IP address is not the basis of an accusation of foreign funding." Bank account number and PAN number remain the same and therefore doner's identification cannot be concealed, she said, adding that the accused took every precaution that the foreign money does not come to his company's account. The counsel reiterated the argument that the picture was taken from a 1983 movie by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and played the relevant clip of the movie before the court. "Hrishikesh Mukherjee made the joke, film board passed it. We live in a robust democracy, where governments come and go, and elections are held every five years.
People of this country enjoy much freedom including freedom to make jokes," the counsel said. The counsel further said that Zubair's four-year-old tweet was dug out by one anonymous Twitter user, which was his first tweet since creating his account. "Someone digs out the four-year-old tweet, and I (Zubair) am being accused of creating unrest in the country," she said. The prosecution opposed the bail plea, saying the website of the accused's company says only Indian citizens "should" pay, but they are also receiving money from others. "Someone is paying and you're accepting it…Rs 56 lakh rupee has been received in violation of FCRA," the prosecution said.
The prosecutor further said that forgery was also committed in this which we are probing. This case needs further probe, and if he comes out he may delete information and influence, other persons, not to help in the probe, he said. "Gumnaam (nameless) will remain Gumnaam if he comes out… We have given notices to banks. There might be chances that his people might have sent money to his account, to evade liability of Income Tax Act," he said.