Journalist Mohammed Zubair booked for allegedly hurting religious sentiments

28 June, 2022 | Vaishali Sharma

An FIR was filed a week ago against AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who was detained on Monday, authorities said on Tuesday.

An FIR was filed a week ago against AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who was detained on Monday, authorities said on Tuesday.

Zubair was detained on Monday and held in police custody for one day after a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against him based on a Twitter tweet that another Twitter handle claimed “hurt Hindu sensibilities.” “The said post of Mohd. Zubair containing a picture and words against a specific religious community are highly provocative and done deliberately, which are more than enough to incite hatred among people, which can be detrimental to the maintenance of public tranquillity,” the Delhi Police said in a statement.

Zubair’s disputed tweet was published in March 2018.

The FIR was registered against Zubair on June 20 based on a complaint made by the Duty Officer of the IFSO section of the Delhi Police Special Cell, which deals with cybercrime.

While monitoring social media, duty officer Arun Kumar saw a message made by a person with the Twitter handle ‘Hanuman Bhakt’ and the Twitter ID @balajikijai. The shared tweet was written by Mohammad Zubair and contains “objectionable” language.

“Today, I was present in IFSO (Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations) unit of Delhi Police, Dwarka as an emergency officer, and during social media monitoring, it came to notice that a Twitter handle Hanuman Bhakt shared a tweet against another Twitter handle – Mohammed Zubair @zoo_bear in which it has been tweeted by Mohammed Zubair ‘before 2014: Honeymoon hotel, after 2014: Hanuman Hotel…and has shown a picture of a signboard of one hotel, “honeymoon hotel changed to Hanuman hotel,” Kumar stated in his complaint.

The screenshot of the board was taken from a Hindi movie.

“These words and the picture found to be used by Mohammed Zubair @zoo_bear against a particular religious community and are highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred amongst people which can be detrimental for maintenance of public tranquility in the society. Transmission and publication of such posts has been deliberately done Mohammed Zubair @zoo_bear through electronic media to insult the religious feelings of a particular community with intent to provoke breach of peace which attracts offence under Section 153-A and 295..From the contents of the post from Twitter handle Mohammed Zubair @zoo_bear, offence 153-A and 295 is made out,” the FIR further stated.

Delhi Police on Monday confirmed that Zubair was arrested and that he was evasive during questioning and did not cooperate in the investigation.

“He was evasive on the questions and neither provided the necessary technical equipment for the purpose of the investigation nor cooperated in the investigation,” ANI quoted Delhi Police senior officials as saying.

The officials also mentioned that the conduct of Zubair was found questionable, which warranted his custodial interrogation to unravel conspiracy in this matter.

Counsel for Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair had moved bail application which was declined by the court on grounds of “not finding merits.”

Delhi Police’s application for one-day police remand was granted by the court,” said Delhi Police officials.

He was charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs).

“The said post of Mohammed Zubair containing pictures and words against a particular religious community is highly provocative and done deliberately which are more than sufficient to incite hatred among people which can be detrimental for maintenance of public tranquillity,” said Delhi Police.

Pratik Sinha, another co-founder at Alt News, commented on his colleague’s arrest and wrote on Twitter, “Zubair was called today by special cell, Delhi for investigation in a 2020 case for which he already had a protection against arrest from High Court.”

“However, today at around 6.45 pm we were told he has been arrested in some other FIR for which no notice was given which is mandatory under law for the Sections under which he has been arrested. Nor FIR copy is being given to us despite repeated requests,” Sinha said in a statement on the microblogging site on Monday.