Fact-checker Mohammad Zubair’s lawyer told a Delhi court today that “formatting a phone is not illegal”, while police claimed a criminal conspiracy, saying the matter was “not just a simple tweet”.
The arguments came up during the hearing on his bail plea, which was embroiled in controversy, that too, when the police said that he was denied bail even when the court had not yet announced the decision. The order for denial of bail came at least two hours after the police told the media this much.
Alt News co-founder Mr. Zubair was arrested four year old tweet Barely a month later, on June 27, he flagged a video of suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma against Prophet Mohammad in a TV show, allegedly for hurting religious sentiments. He was in police custody for the last five days.
Opposing his bail plea in Delhi’s Patiala House Court today, police said Mr. Zubair got Donations from countries like Pakistan and Syria. He said that sections related to destruction of evidence (format phone and deleted tweets) and criminal conspiracy have been included in the FIR. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
The police lawyer argued, “It is not a time-barred case. It is still a continuing offense as the tweet is still there.”
Mr Zubair’s lawyer underlined that the tweet was a screenshot of the 1983 film ‘Kisi Se Na Kehna’ which was cleared by the censor board. But the police said that when the film was released, it was not the age of the internet.
Police said, “The donation is from Pakistan, Syria, so considering the seriousness, it is not just a matter of a simple tweet. He cleverly deleted everything. It is important to delete the data from the phone after the FIR.”
But Zubair’s lawyer told the court that he was not aware of the FIR till his arrest on June 27. The FIR was registered on June 20 after a police officer noticed a tweet objecting to Mr Zubair’s tweet. On the day of his arrest, he was called for questioning in another case in which a court had already granted him protection from arrest.
Advocate Vrinda Grover said, “I (Zubair) was not aware of the FIR and the phone was not summoned. Formatting my phone is not illegal. It is not arms and ammunition or drugs. I am serious legal. And take constitutional objections.” , said on behalf of Mohammad Zubair.
Founded in 2017 as a non-profit organization, Alt News is one of the world’s foremost fact-checking outlets. Its founders – Prateek Sinha and Mohammad Zubair – have been facing online trolling and policing cases for years, especially by right-wing groups. In a tweet after Mr Zubair’s arrest, Mr Sinha had said, “We on Alt News will continue to fight misinformation, propaganda and hate speech, and hold people and organizations accountable, and no one can stop it.”
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