Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was on Wednesday, 20 July, granted interim bail by the Supreme Court in all existing and future First Information Reports (FIRs) against him in connection with his tweets.
The cases lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh were also clubbed with the case against him in Delhi, and are to be investigated in a "consolidated" way by the Delhi Police.
Further, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the UP administration to probe cases lodged against the fact-checker across the state was also disbanded by the apex court.
Zubair had been booked for calling certain Hindutva leaders 'hatemongers' and for tweeting a 'questionable image,' summoned for questioning in a child protection First Information Report, and sent to judicial custody in a fake news case – all since June.
The list of cases against the fact-checker is long, and the several court hearings and different police action in the various FIRs add to the confusing volution.
Two new cases had been filed against Zubair while some old cases have risen to activity in the past few weeks – since he threw light on suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma's derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad.
Zubair, who is currently lodged in Sitapur jail, had in May shared the video of Sharma that went on to ignite an international controversy, with over a dozen Islamic countries issuing furious criticism of the spokesperson's remarks and demanding an apology from the BJP-led Indian government.
A barrage of FIRs against Zubair have kindled into action since then, resulting in his arrest on 27 June – a mere month after he tweeted against the ruling party leader on 27 May.
There are six cases against the fact-checker in Uttar Pradesh, and two in Delhi.
Here's a lowdown on all the cases against Mohammed Zubair.
'Hatemongers' Tweet Case in Sitapur
An FIR was filed against Mohammed Zubair at UP’s Sitapur on 3 June, under Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, raising serious concerns about a chilling effect on free speech and the misuse of law.
The FIR states that on 27 May, the informant in the case saw a tweet posted by Zubair on his handle, in which he used the "offensive" term “hatemongers” against “the respected manager of revered religious place Badi Sanghat, P.S. Khairabad and National Patron of National Hindu Sher Sena, Mahant Bajrang Muni Ji.”
“Petitioner also insulted Hindu Yati Narasimha Nar Saraswati and Swami Anand Swaroop on his twitter (sic),” it adds.
The FIR was lodged on a complaint from Bhagwan Sharan, who is the Sitapur unit chief of the Hindu Sher Sena.
The police later dropped Section 67 of the IT Act and added Section 153A IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) in the case.
2018 'Honeymoon-Hanuman' Case in Delhi
After he was called for questioning by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police in the first case on 27 June, Zubair was arrested by the police in another case in an unanticipated move.
The case pertained to a 2018 tweet by him carrying a "questionable image with a purpose to deliberately insult the god of a particular religion," as per the police.
It had noted in its statement that his tweet in the other case, filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, was not found to be objectionable.
No formal complaint had been lodged with the Delhi Police in connection with the second case. The police filed the FIR based on 20 June, taking cognizance of the 19 June tweet by an anonymous Twitter account '@balajikijaiin.'
Zubair was granted bail in the case pertaining to his four-year-old tweet by a Delhi sessions court on 15 July.
Case in Lakhimpur by Sudarshan News Staffer
The Lakhimpur Kheri police on 8 July issued a fresh warrant against the arrested fact-checker over a case registered against him in 2021 for allegedly spreading enmity between religious groups.
In the FIR accessed by The Quint, the complainant, named Ashish Kumar Katiyar, accused Zubair of propagating 'fake news' on Twitter with the motive of disturbing communal harmony, following which a case was registered under Section 153-A (promoting enmity between two groups) of the IPC.
The complainant is an employee of the right-wing channel Sudarshan News, and has alleged that Zubair's tweet is misleading people about the media outlet. Katiyar reportedly took objection to a tweet in which Zubair had pointed out that Sudarshan News used images of Al-Masjid an-Nabawi from Madina and superimposed it on an old picture from Gaza, with graphics bombing the mosque, during a broadcast.
The FIR was registered in September last year at the Mohammadi police station on a Lakhimpur Kheri court's order, the warrant for which was issued to Zubair at the Sitapur district jail on Friday.
A Lakhimpur Kheri court had remanded him to 14-days' judicial custody in the case.
The local court had also denied bail to him in the case on 16 July.
Loni Viral Video Case
Zubair was among the nine persons booked in Ghaziabad last year in connection with their reportage on the assault of an elderly man in Loni district in May 2021.
After the video of a 72-year-old Muslim man, Abdul Samad Saifi, being brutally beaten up in Ghaziabad’s Loni went viral on social media, many shared the video claiming the incident of being a communally motivated hate crime.
The Uttar Pradesh police had denied such allegations, and had asserted that there was no communal angle in the case. The Ghaziabad police had booked a number of journalist, including Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, and Zubair, on the charges of inciting communal disharmony.
The Alt News co-founder had been questioned at the Loni Border police station in June last year in connection with the case.
POCSO Case Over Alleged Doxxing in Delhi
In August 2020, the Delhi Police had booked Zubair in a Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) case on the basis of a complaint filed by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The NCPCR complaint had referred to a tweet shared by Zubair in the same month, which had the photo of a minor girl, with her face blurred out, during an online spat he was having with her father.
The man had abused Zubair in a reply to his tweet about a fact check, and Zubair had responded by sharing the user's profile picture with the caption: "Does your cute granddaughter know about your part-time job of abusing people on social media? I suggest you change your profile pic."
At the time, Alt News had rubbished the charges that Zubair had doxxed the minor. Zubair had then approached the Delhi High Court and the court had restrained the Delhi Police from taking any coercive action against him.
Death Threat Case in Muzaffarnagar, 2 Other Cases in Hathras
In Muzaffarnagar’s Charthawal police station, one Ankur Rana had lodged an FIR accusing Zubair of issuing a threat to his life on 27 July 2021.
The complainant alleged that after he saw Zubair's tweet regarding Sudarshan News' misinformation about bombing in Israel, he had called up the journalist.
Ankur Rana alleged that Zubair has abused him, and had threatened his life if he got involved in the matter.
Zubair has been booked under the charges of fabricating false evidence, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, and punishment for criminal intimidation. A trial in this case is impending in the court.
Two cases have also been registered against the scribe in Hathras, both on the charges of hurting religious sentiments.
While one case relates to alleged inciting of violence in Purdil Nagar town after Friday prayers on 10 June, the other is connected to a Twitter post purportedly promoting enmity between two groups on the basis of religion.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate court of Hathras had issued a warrant against Zubair in the second case. He had been served the notice in Sitapur jail where he is currently lodged.
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