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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday, July 18 directed that no precipitative steps be taken against Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in connection with the FIRs lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly outraging religious feelings.
The apex court observed that there seems to be a “vicious cycle”, where the moment Zubair gets bail in one case, he is remanded in another case.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna said it would hear on July 20 the plea filed by Zubair, who is seeking quashing of these FIRs.
“In the meantime, we direct that no precipitative steps shall be taken against the petitioner (Zubair) in connection with any of the five FIRs, which have been extracted above (in the order), without the leave of this court,” the bench said while issuing notice on his plea.
The apex court, while issuing the order, alleged systematic harassment by the Uttar Pradesh government. “Contents of all FIRs seem to be similar. What seems to be happening is, as he gets bail in one case, he is remanded in another. This vicious cycle is continuing,” the bench observed when Zubair’s lawyer sought an urgent hearing.
Earlier in the day, advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, had mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana.
“Upon being mentioned by Vrinda Grover, counsel appearing for the petitioner for urgent listing of matter, we grant liberty to the petitioner to mention the matter before a bench presided over by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud,” the CJI-led bench said in its order.
Later in the day, Grover mentioned the matter before the bench headed by Justice Chandrachud which said it would hear it during the day itself.
In the order, Justice Chandrachud-led bench noted that the subject matter of the present proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution arises from five FIRs lodged against the petitioner.
“Since the petition is not on board today, we direct the registry to list it on July 20,” the bench said.
Zubair sought interim bail in all the six FIRs, which were filed against him in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, Lakhimpur Kheri and Sitapur. He has got bail in one case.
In the Sitapur case, the UP police accused him of using the term “hatemongers” to describe three Hindu religious leaders. These leaders are Yati Narasinghanand, Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop. They were seen in videos giving hate speeches, inciting violence against Muslims or threatening to rape Muslim women.
The apex court has granted him interim bail in this case. It will hear the case next on September 7.
Grover said once the apex court granted him interim bail in FIR lodged at Sitapur, a warrant in another FIR came.
The fresh plea of Zubair has also challenged the constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) by the Uttar Pradesh government to probe these cases.
The UP government had also formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the six cases registered against Zubair in various districts of the state.
While mentioning the matter before the Justice Chandrachud-led bench, Grover had informed the court that Zubair is being produced before Hathras court today (July 18) and the remand order will be passed.
She had said that the matter requires an urgent hearing as there is a threat to his life.
“The FIR was lodged against Zubair by the complainant after a cash prize was put on his head. This is the same FIRs and same allegations and same tweet. He is being produced before different courts of UP and remanded to judicial custody. Today, he is being produced before Hathras court,” she said.
As per Bar and Bench, Zubair sought to club the six FIRs with the FIR in Delhi, where he was first arrested over a 2018 tweet. A Delhi court granted him bail in this case on July 15, on a condition that he cannot leave the country without the its permission.
Currently, he’s in judicial custody over the Lakhimpur Kheri case, which was registered last year in September. The FIR was filed against him on a complaint by Ashish Kumar Katiyar, a journalist working at Sudarshan TV.
In his complaint, Katiyar had accused Zubair of misleading people through his tweet about his channel.
A hearing in this case is scheduled to be held on July 20.
(With inputs from PTI)
Note: This story was originally published on July 18 at 3:49 pm and was republished with more updates at 6:23 pm on the same day.