NEW DELHI: Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair, who was arrested for a 2018 tweet on Lord Hanuman, has been denied bail and sent to 14 days of judicial custody by a court here on Saturday.
Zubair has come under a tight scrutiny after a Delhi Police probe found that he “apparently removed the data or had brought an altogether different/less used mobile phone before coming to Delhi to join investigations on June 25” besides “suspicious donations from persons with foreign mobile phone numbers and “suspicious IP addresses from foreign cities” via Razorpay, triggering fresh charges against him under criminal conspiracy (IPC 120B) and destruction of evidence (IPC 201).
The order came after a 10-hour courtroom drama including lengthy arguments between the defence counsel Vrinda Grover and special public prosecutor Atul Shivastava. The day was also marked by a controversy after Delhi cops, hours before the pronouncement of the order, conveyed to a section of media that a favourable order had been released. However, the Delhi cops later claimed that they had “misheard the pronouncement during a commotion”.
Zubair was arrested on June 27 for fanning religious sentiments.
During the hearing, Zubair denied charges of deleting data from any mobile phone to circumvent the police investigation. “He has not deleted any data from the gadget,” his counsel told the court.
During the hearing on his bail application, lawyer Vrinda Grover said, “Is formatting the mobile phone or laptop a crime? We are a free country. We have every right to format any of my devices.”
Refuting the charges, Zubair’s counsel told the court, “The Delhi Police has not got any concrete evidence against him though they have seized his mobile and other gadgets,” his counsel told the court.”
The CMM Snigdha Sarvaria, however, was not convinced. In her order, while dismissing Zubair’s bail plea, the CMM said,” Since 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 grand of bail is made out. Bail application of accused is accordingly dismissed,”.
Zubair’s lawyer had earlier also told the court that he did not receive any donation. “The money was transferred to the company’s account,” he said.
Zubair, who describes himself as a fact-checker, was first slapped with under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 295-A (malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings).
The Patiala House court CMM, also concurred with Delhi Police’s SPP that “there is every likelihood that police custodial (PC) remand of accused (Zubair) would be required”.
The CMM also said that Arnab Goswami and Amish Devgan cases were not applicable in favour of Zubair as “new sections (destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy) have been added in the FIR against him during the course of investigation”.
The court, also dismissed the arguments by Zubair’s lawyers that seizure of laptop and mobile phone was illegal and affecting privacy of the accused, as “it has been found that it is part of the police file that the mobile phone make Google seized from the accused…was found to be having no data”.
“Nothing was found on record to show that any mobile phone of the accused was lost, although said plea has been taken now in the present application.”
The Patiala court also dismissed the plea by Zubair’s lawyer that his 2018 tweet was part of Hindi movie “Kissi Se Na Kehna” saying this if of no assistance as fresh charges under Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution Act have been added and investigation on this is pending.
“Even otherwise, this court shall not pass any orders as to what sections are being made out and what sections are not being made out,” the CMM said.
The order against Zubair came barely a day after Supreme Court had said ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma was single-handedly responsible, while not entertaining her plea to club FIRs against her in different states as one in Delhi over her remarks on the Prophet.
Do visit www.newindian.in for exclusive video stories from hinterlands of India.