'Hate-Monger' Case: SC Extends Zubair's Interim Bail, Lists Plea to Quash FIR on September 7

The journalist, who is in jail and faces no fewer than four sets of charges in separate cases filed over a period of two weeks, had challenged the Allahabad HC's refusal to quash the Sitapur Police's FIR.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 12, extended the five-day interim bail it had granted to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in the case registered against him by Uttar Pradesh police for calling three Hindutva leaders allegedly connected to hate speech-related offences, ‘hate-mongers’.

This will not impact Zubair’s freedom as he is jailed in a case filed by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity through a tweet of a film still in 2018.

A division bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna adjourned the plea filed by the journalist challenging the Allahabad high court’s refusal to quash the Sitapur Police’s FIR to September 7 – almost two months later.

The bench gave the Uttar Pradesh government four weeks’ time to submit its counter arguments.

The Supreme Court on July 8, granted interim bail to Zubair in this case in which he had been charged for allegedly hurting religious sentiments for calling Hindutva leaders Yati Narasinghanand, Mahant Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop “hate-mongers” in a tweet posted on May 27.

A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J.K. Maheshwari had noted that the conditions to be imposed for the five-day bail by the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) at Sitapur should include that Zubair not be allowed to tweet or leave the jurisdiction of the magistrate’s court.

A local court in Sitapur July 7 had sent Zubair to police custody from July 8 to July 14 in connection with this tweet.

In June, Zubair had moved the Allahabad high court to quash the same FIR, however, his plea had been rejected.

Zubair, one of the country’s foremost fact-checkers who is known for tweeting information debunking fake news, has been hounded by cases filed under charges that have been widely and globally criticised as ranging from vindictive to dubious.

All these cases have been filed within a period of two weeks by police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, both under the control of Bharatiya Janata Party governments.

There are currently four sets of charges – one for a 2018 tweet of a film still flagged by an anonymous account on Twitter, one for alleged FCRA violations, one for a May 2022 tweet and one for a 2021 tweet against false news on Sudarshan TV – thrown at the celebrated fact-checker is less than two weeks by the police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.