Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair granted bail by SC in Sitapur case, but to stay in jail

The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in a case registered by the Uttar Pradesh Police. However, Zubair will remain in custody in a case filed by the Delhi Police which had initially arrested him over charges of hurting religious sentiments.

Zubair had moved the Supreme Court after a court in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur rejected his bail application in the UP case, which is about a tweet posted by him about Hindu seers.

Justice Indira Banerjee, while issuing a notice to the UP government and police, said that Zubair is being granted interim bail with conditions.

According to the terms of the interim bail order, Zubair shall not put out any tweets or tamper with evidence in Bengaluru or anywhere else. It clarified that the interim order only pertains to the FIR dated June 1 and not any other FIR. The top court also said it has not stayed the investigation or impeded it in any manner.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for UP Police, requested that the interim order be deferred till Monday, but the court did not accept it.

During arguments in the top court today (July 8), Zubair’s counsel, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, said, “A person who made hate speech has been granted bail but secular tweeter who exposed the venomous language has been jailed.”

Zubair has sought that the FIR against him in Sitapur be quashed after the local court sent him to 14 days judicial custody in the case, which alleges that he hurt religious sentiments through his tweet.

“I have challenged Allahabad HC verdict dismissing the anticipatory bail and quashing petition. My argument here and before the HC is that there is no ground for FIR… I’m asking for quashing FIR,” Gonsalves said on behalf of his client.

Opposing the bail plea, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “One isolated tweet is not the offence. His overall conduct is being investigated. He’s a habitual offender. Six cases have been filed against him in two years.”

Mehta also informed the court that Zubair is also being investigated for alleged Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations. “This is not about one tweet. Whether donations from countries inimical to India have been received by them is under investigation. There was a suppression of facts and he claims he is a fact-checker. There is something more than what meets the eye in this case.”

However, the Supreme Court granted five-day interim bail to Zubair in the matter.

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