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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, July 8, granted interim bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair in a case in which he had been charged for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by the Uttar Pradesh police.
A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J.K. Maheshwari granted five-day interim bail to Zubair on conditions to be imposed by the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC), Sitapur.
Further, the court noted that the bail conditions to be imposed by the JMFC should include that Zubair shall not be allowed to tweet or leave the jurisdiction of the magistrate’s court.
The top court also sought for the JMFC’s July 7 order, as well as the order denying Zubair bail, to be translated into English and submitted to the court, Bar and Bench reported.
The bail order came while the court was hearing Zubair’s plea for the first information report (FIR) by the Uttar Pradesh police to be quashed.
On July 1, the Uttar Pradesh police had registered an FIR against Zubair at Khairabad police station for calling Hindutva leaders Yati Narasinghanand, Mahant Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop “hatemongers” in a tweet posted on May 27.
Well done @vineetjaintimes! Why do we need Hate Mongers like Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati or Mahant Bajrang Muni or Anand Swaroop to arrange a Dharam Sansad to speak against a community and a Religion when we already have Anchors who can do much better job from News Studios.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 27, 2022
The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by Bhagwan Sharan, who identifies himself as the district head of Rashtriya Hindu Sher Sena, under Section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of Information Technology Act.
A local court in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur had initially sent Zubair to 14-day judicial custody on July 5. Thereafter, on July 7, the same court had rejected his bail application on grounds that he may influence witnesses or repeat offences, and had sent him to police custody from July 8-14.
In June, Zubair had moved the Allahabad high court to quash the same FIR, however, his plea had been rejected.
Zubair moved the Supreme Court for the quashing of the Uttar Pradesh Police’s FIR on July 7.
In the present case, Bar and Bench quoted the Supreme Court as saying: “Let the matter be posted before a regular bench. We will grant protection for few days on condition that you will not leave jurisdiction of this court and you will not put up more tweets. We will grant you interim bail for few days,” the bench remarked.
Zubair is already in judicial custody in another case filed by the Delhi Police for tweeting a still from a 1983 film. He was initially charged under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups) and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class).
Subsequently, additional sections dealing with criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the IPC were added, as were charges under the Financial Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).