Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Pointing out that the power of arrest must be exercised sparingly and that they cannot stop a journalist from tweeting, the Supreme Court of India on Wednesday, 20 July, granted interim bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair. This interim bail is applicable to all existing and future FIRs against Zubair in connection with “the same subject matter,” that is, his tweets.
The FIRs filed in diverse police stations of Uttar Pradesh have also been clubbed with the FIR against him in Delhi, for which he had already received bail, and are to be investigated in a "consolidated" way by the Delhi Police.
While pronouncing its order, the court also made a slew of striking remarks in connection with Zubair’s case as well as on an array of connected issues, including a journalist's right to write (and tweet).
Here are some key highlights from the observations of Justice DY Chandrachud-led bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Mohammed Zubair:
"It is settled principle of law, that the existence of powers of arrest must be distinguished from the exercise of powers of arrest, which must be used sparingly.”
“Essentially the gravamen of allegations are tweets by him (Zubair). He has been subjected to fairly sustained probe by Delhi Police. We do not find any reason for his deprivation of liberty to persist further.”
“The Special Investigation Team set up by the Uttar Pradesh police shall be rendered redundant and disbanded.”
"While, we have proceeded to not quash the FIRs, we expressly clarify that we have granted liberty to petitioner to approach the Delhi High Court."
“We cannot say that he (Zubair) won’t tweet again. It is like telling a lawyer that you should not argue. How can we tell a journalist that he will not write?"
“We cannot anticipatorily interdict him from exercising his right of free speech."