Four days after Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was arrested over a 2018 tweet, a senior Delhi Police officer told The Quint on Thursday, 30 June, that they have not yet established contact with the Twitter user who had tagged them in the contentious post.
"We have sought Twitter's help to identify the user," said the officer.
The senior officer further added, "It's not that important. When a PCR caller informs us about something, it's not necessary for us to know who the PCR caller is. Likewise, we received a complaint and we took action."
The Quint's legal editor, Vakasha Sachdev, however, said that it's imperative to know the identity of the complainant in such a case. Sachdev said, "Where the complaint involves an allegation of subjective harm, such as defamation, or something like outraging religious sentiments, the identity of the complainant becomes crucial. When it comes to a claim of outraging religious sentiments or causing enmity between communities, the complainant's viewpoint is crucial - as was the case here where the Twitter user was claiming offence on behalf of Hanuman followers."
The contentious 2018 tweet for which Zubair has been booked carried a picture of the signboard of a hotel visibly changed from 'Honeymoon Hotel' to 'Hanuman Hotel'. It is accompanied by the text: “BEFORE 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel”. A Twitter user, @balajikijaiin, had tagged the Delhi Police.
On the day of Zubair's arrest on Monday, DCP (Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations) KPS Malhotra had told The Quint that Delhi Police had filed an FIR after being tagged in the tweet and that the Twitter user had not submitted an official complaint.
The IFSO unit of the Delhi Police's Special Cell took Zubair to his Bengaluru residence on Thursday, 30 June, to obtain his electronic devices as part of the investigation.
DCP Malhotra said, "We have seized a laptop and a hard disk from Zubair's residence in Bengaluru today."
'No Connection Between Zubair's Laptop & Tweet': Alt News Founder Pratik Sinha
Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha said that Zubair's laptop had no connection with the tweet he had put out.
"Zubair tweeted a joke in 2018 which was based on a 1983 movie from a phone which was snatched from him in 2021, for which he's produced a police complaint copy. Yet, Delhi police went all the way to Bangalore to get his laptop, a device that has nothing to do with the tweet," Sinha said.
'Possible That Zubair Made Back-Up On Laptop Or Hard Disk': Police Official
A senior Delhi Police officer, told The Quint, "While Zubair has produced a complaint copy of his lost phone, there is a possibility that he did a back-up of it on his laptop or hard disk."
The senior Delhi Police officer alleged that the 2018 tweet, which is clip from the film, "led to threads on social media, which led to hot debates and discussions."
The officer said, "We are investigating other tweets by Zubair, all of his tweets will be a part of the investigation."
Meanwhile, Sinha said, "For a tweet, why does Delhi police need to find the original device? They can see the tweet even on their own phones or summon Twitter for details. It is clear that the police is on a desperate fishing expedition. The act of seizing the device is for purposes beyond this case."
The Twitter handle that had tagged the cops had been deactivated. However, The Quint noticed on 30 June night that it was back on the microblogging site.
Complainant Is a Delhi Police Personnel
In the FIR, the complainant is a Delhi Police personnel.
Sachdev, The Quint's legal editor, said, "The FIR was registered in the name of one of the police officers but if the police is going to register suo moto FIRs on the basis of information made available to them, the source of the information must be credible (which will require some basic verification, which hasn't been completed in this case) and there must actually be some cognizable offence made out."
He said, "In this case, given there has been no disturbance of public order in the last four years, and in fact there is no way to even make out a claim of Section 295 being violated (the FIR says 295, ie defiling a religious place, rather than 295A, which deals with outraging religious sentiments), which raises serious questions about how this case was registered and is being allowed to proceed."
Zubair Moves High Court Against 4-Day Custody
Earlier on Thursday, Zubair moved the Delhi High Court challenging the four-day police custody remand given to him by a trial court on Tuesday. The court is slated to hear the matter on Friday.
Zubair was arrested on Monday and remanded by the duty magistrate to one-day police custody. On Tuesday, the Patiala House Court extended the police remand by four days.
While the FIR copy accessed by The Quint says that Zubair has been booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 295 (injuring or defiling a place of worship) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the remand order indicates Zubair is being alleged to have committed offences under Sections 153A and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) instead.