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New Delhi: Alt News’ co-founder Mohammed Zubair moved the Supreme Court on Thursday, July 7, to request the quashing of the first information report (FIR) registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police in connection with his tweet posted in May where he called Hindutva leaders, accused of hate speeches, “hate mongers”, Bar and Bench has reported.
The matter is likely to be heard on Friday, July 8, after “subject to clearance” from the Chief Justice of India. Zubair’s counsel, Colin Gonsalves, appealed to the court that his matter be heard on an “urgent basis”, for he is receiving death threats. In fact, Gonsalves urged that the court heard the matter at 2 pm on Thursday, which was turned down.
Hours after he moved the apex court on Thursday, July 7, a court in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur sent him to police custody from July 8 to July 14. He is currently in judicial custody after the Sitapur court sent him to judicial custody for 14 days on July 5.
He was first arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 for a 2018 tweet of a film still and has been in jail since. On July 2, police added additional charges under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to his name.
His arrest and incarceration have been criticised as a death blow to press freedom by activists, journalists, rights bodies, journalists’ associations and politicians both within the country and globally.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves mentioned the ‘hate monger’ case before a vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J.K. Maheshwari on July 6 for urgent listing, LiveLaw has reported.
“This relates to Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News. His job is to fact check news, and he was doing the role of identifying hate speeches. A look at the FIR shows that there is no crime. We went to Allahabad HC, but no relief granted. Bail is sought on emergency. There are death threats on the internet. If possible list today at 2. I am really worried,” Gonsalves submitted, according to LiveLaw.
This FIR was registered on June 1 against tweets posted by Zubair on May 27, criticising prime-time debates on Indian news television channels, saying they, “have become a platform to encourage hate mongers to speak ill about other religions” in connection with the controversy over the Gyanvapi mosque.
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
On June 10, a division bench of the Allahabad high court had refused to quash this FIR saying that it was “premature to interfere when the investigation was at a preliminary stage,” according to LiveLaw.
Who are Narsinghanand, Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop?
Narsinghanand, the Dasna temple head priest, was released from jail after having been arrested in connection with the Haridwar Dharma Sansad hate speech against Muslims and other cases on February 18.
His release follows a bail he secured on February 15 in a case where he was accused of making objectionable remarks against women and abusing a journalist.
Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar Police has also registered an FIR against Narsinghanand for his March 2021 remarks against former president late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the Muslim community.
While out on bail, Narsinghanand said in Una that Hindus must have more children to make sure India doesn’t “become an Islamic nation”.
Mahant Bajrang Muni Udasin, priest of the Badi Sangat Ashram in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, has threatened mass sexual violence against Muslim women in the presence of the police on the occasion of the Hindu new year.
Anand Swaroop, in January 2021, said in Meerut, that if Muslims wanted to remain associated with “us”, they “should first stop reading the Quran and stop offering namaz.”
He told attendees of the Hindu Panchayat which he was addressing: “You decide that you will not buy anything from a Muslim. If you destroy them socially, politically and economically, they will begin converting to Hinduism from Islam.”
Note: This copy, first published at 12:04 pm on July 7, was republished on the same day with updates at 7:45 pm.