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A Delhi Court has today granted bail to Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of a portal named "Alt News" in a case where he has been accused of hurting religious sentiments and criminal conspiracy via a tweet representative of a Hindu deity and receiving funds illegally from abroad.
The Additional Session's Judge has said in context of the argument that section 153A & 295A of IPC is attracted against him that the tweet he made was "critical of the ruling party with an image from a 1983 film "kisi se na kehna", which was certified by the CBFC of the GOI. The bench has further observed that the Hindu religion is the most tolerant and many organisations, institutes and companies are named after Hindu deities.
"The political parties are not shying from public to face the criticism of its policies. Voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy the political political are open for their criticism," the Court said, while adding that "Hindu Religion is one of the oldest religion. The followers are also tolerant. Hindu religion is so tolerant that its followers proudly name their institutions, organisations, facilities in the name of Hindu Gods. A large number of Hindus proudly name their children in the name of their holy Gods and Goddesses. The website of Ministry of Corporate Affairs, GOI reveals that number of companies are incorporated in the name of Holy God or Goddess".
The Court has gone on to state that the police file brought by the IO reveals that till today, the police has failed to establish the identity of the twitter user who felt offended by the tweet of the accused and the statement of the aggrieved person has not yet been recorded as yet under Section 161 CRPC.
"It is also not out of place to mention that the alleged tweet of the accused was made in the year 2018 but till date the date of registration of the present FIR in 2022, no other complaint was received that the tweet of the accused is offensive to the Hindu community or is showing disrespect to Lord Hanuman".
With regard to violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), section 35, the Court has found that the accused has prima facie taken due diligence as per section 39.
On the issue of the challenge to not being given notice under Section 41A crpc (Notice to appear before police officer), the Court has not made any considerations as the same is already challenged before the Delhi High Court, against the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate order which held it was complied with.
In this light, the court awarded bail to Zubair upon furnishing a bail bond to the sum of Rs. 50,000.
Zubair is also required to keep his phone switched on and active at all times, cannot leave the country without permission of court and will surrender his passport with the Investigating Agency within 3 days of release from jail. Apart from that, he has been asked to join the investigation as and when required by the SHO/IO to do so. He shall also not tamper with evidence, Court said.
On July 2nd, his bail was rejected and Zubair was directed to be placed in police remand for 14 days.
The order had been passed by Snigdha Savaria, who is Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Patiala House Court.
Zubair was initially charged with Indian Penal Code Sections 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups) and 295 (injuring or defiling a place of worship with the intent to insult the religion of any class), and subsequently, offenses under Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, as well as Sections 201 (evidence destruction) and 120b (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, were added.
He was arrested based on a complaint made by a Twitter handle, wherein it was alleged that he tweeted the questionable image with an intent to insult the god of a particular religion.
As per the FIR in the present case, Zubair's 2018 tweet about renaming a "Honeymoon Hotel" after the Hindu god Hanuman is an insult to their religion.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 and remanded in police custody for one day by the duty magistrate.
On June 28, he appeared before CMM and was remanded to further police custody for four days. Thereafter, he was remanded in Judicial Custody for 14 days.
Recently, he has been remanded to 14-day Judicial custody in another FIR in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri district.
Furthermore, he has approached the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the SIT which has been formulated to look into cases against him and for quashing of six FIRs against him in Uttar Pradesh.
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