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Law

Delhi Court Extends Journalist Mohammed Zubair's Custody by Four Days

The court said that since the AltNews co-founder remained "non-cooperative", a four-day remand was granted because he needs to be taken to Bangalore.

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New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday extended by four days the custodial interrogation of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in a case related to an alleged objectionable tweet he had posted in 2018.

Chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) Snigdha Sarvaria passed the order after hearing arguments from the Delhi police as well as the accused.

The police had sought an extension of Zubair’s custody by five days.

The journalist was arrested under sections 153 and 295 of the Indian Penal Code.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, said as a journalist, her client’s job was to speak truth to power, for which he was being targeted. She also pointed out that the alleged offensive tweet was taken from the 1983 movie Kissi Se Na Kehna.

According to LiveLaw, she said that though several Twitter users had shared the image, only Zubair was “targeted” because of his profession and religious community.

“Is it their case that if it’s the same tweet, many others have said that too, the only distinction between them and my client is a distinction of faith of my name, my work?. Is that the reason why I am being targeted?… Can my liberty be restrained even for a day because I am somebody who doesn’t agree with someone in power? But that’s not how democracy functions,” she said.

The public prosecutor submitted that laptops and electronic instruments from which the tweet was posted are necessary for investigation and therefore the police need Zubair’s custody. The prosecutor claimed that Zubair had “deleted all the applications from his phone” and arrived with a “blank phone”, according to LiveLaw.

Granting the police custody of four days, the CMM said that the submissions with respect to the photograph being part of the movie Kissi Se Na Kehna are “of no assistance to the accused at this
stage”.

“Considering that mobile phone/laptop of accused used by him for posting the tweet in question is to be recovered at the instance of accused Mohammed Zubair from his Bangalore residence and that accused Mohammed Zubair has remained non-cooperative and the disclosure statement on record, 04 days PC remand of accused is granted since accused is to be taken to Bangalore,” the CMM said.

Zubair’s arrest has been condemned by a host of rights and media bodies.

“It is apparent that AltNews’ alert vigilance was resented by those who use disinformation as a tool to polarise the society and rake nationalist sentiments,” the Editors Guild of India said, condemning the arrest.

“Harassment, intimidation, unlawful and arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment of human rigts defenders for tirelessly seeking truth and justice has become alarmingly commonplace in India,” said Amnesty India in a statement.