Fact-checker Mohammed Zubair’s bail plea rejected by UP court

He is already in custody until July 27 in Hathras.

Lucknow:

A court in Lakhimpur, Uttar Pradesh, today rejected the bail of fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, who has recently been the subject of a series of FIRs. In the Lakhimpur case, the complaint was filed by a Sudarshan News employee over a tweet by Mr Zubair last year. The tweet, the complainant says, misled people about the Sudarshan Channel’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Mr. Zubair is already in custody until July 27 in Hathras.

The custody hearing will be held on July 20, Mr Zubair’s lawyer, Harjit Singh, told the ANI news agency. The Mohammadi Magistrate Court of Lakhimpur Kheri had summoned him in a case registered on September 18, 2021, after a complaint was filed by an employee of Sudarshan News. The court remanded him Monday in police custody for 14 days.

Mohammed Zubair’s lawyer had said that the plaintiff raised an objection regarding the bail plea filed in English, due to which the hearing (for bail) was postponed.

A total of seven FIRs – six in UP and one in Delhi – have been filed against Mr Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News.

Mr Zubair was released on bail on Friday in the case filed by Delhi police over a 2018 tweet, for which he was arrested last month.

While granting bail to Mr Zubair in the 2018 case, Extra Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala had said Indian democracy and political parties were open to criticism, meaning that the mere criticism of a party cannot serve as a basis for punishing a person.

“The voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy… Without a doubt, freedom of expression is the very foundation of a democratic society,” the court said.

The fact-checker was arrested in four of the seven cases, and custody was ordered in two cases. He had asked the Supreme Court to quash six lawsuits brought against him by the Uttar Pradesh police. He had also called for the special investigation team formed to investigate the cases to be cancelled.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Zubair had asked the Supreme Court to grant him bail and alleged he was receiving death threats. Judges DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna gave the UP government four weeks to respond to Mr Zubair’s appeal.

That day, the Uttar Pradesh police formed a special investigation team to investigate several cases against him.

Mohammed Zubair was arrested on June 27 by Delhi police for his four-year-old tweet sharing a screenshot of a popular Hindi movie.

He was charged and arrested just days after posting a video of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s provocative comments about the Prophet Muhammad during a televised debate.

Virginia C. Taylor