The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail of five days to AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair who had moved the Supreme Court for relief against the Allahabad High Court’s order which refused to grant him bail in the FIR filed against him by Uttar Pradesh Police for hurting religious sentiments in a tweet.
The plea was presented by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves before the vacation bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari. The bench granted the interim relief subject to restrictions imposed by the Sitapur court and has ordered him to appear before a regular bench on Monday. Zubair has been restrained from tweeting and leaving Delhi, where there is another case against him for a 2018 tweet on a film scene, to prevent him from tampering with any evidence in Bangalore.
Gonsalves contended that the three Hindu religious leaders — Yati Narsinghanand, Anand Swaroop and Bajrang Muni – who were called ‘hate mongers’ in the tweet were prosecuted under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and exposing them can’t be made into a criminal case. He also argued that charges under Section 67 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 should be dropped as it relates to obscene matter.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the State of Uttar Pradesh and ASG SV Raju for the investigating officer. Mehta argued the fact-checker suppressed two facts–that the Delhi court had refused to grant him bail and in UP as well his bail plea was rejected and he was sent in remand. When asked to prove how offence under Section 295A of the IPC was being made out against Zubair, ASG Raju stated that Zubair’s tweet led to violence between religious communities. As per ASG’s arguments, Bajrang Muni is a well-known spiritual leader of Sitapur and making hate remarks against him caused a voluminous outrage among communities. Gonsalves then countered that Bajrang Muni had said Muslim women should be kidnapped and raped, to which the Supreme Court asked of other religious leaders mentioned in the tweet.
Finally, the bench decided only to take up the matter that was presented before it and has asked the parties to appear before a regular bench for others.