Delhi HC notice on Alt News co-founder Zubair’s plea against police remand

Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India.

The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Delhi Police on a plea moved by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair challenging a lower court order allowing his police custody and seizure of his laptop in connection with a 2018 contentious tweet.

New Delhi, July 1, 2022:  The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Delhi Police on a plea moved by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair challenging a lower court order allowing his police custody and seizure of his laptop in connection with a 2018 contentious tweet.

Dealing with the plea, a vacation bench of Justice Sanjeev Narula directed the police to file a counter-affidavit within two weeks.

During the course of the hearing, the court observed that his remand will end tomorrow and the matter has a “very limited shelf life”.

Zubair’s counsel Vrinda Grover argued that her client was arrested in breach of the Arnesh Kumar guidelines issued by the Supreme Court and that it was an attempt to breach his journalistic freedom as the police seized his mobile phone and laptop.

The matter will be heard again on July 27.

Zubair, who is currently in police custody in connection with a 2018 contentious tweet, on Thursday approached the Delhi High Court challenging the police remand.

On Tuesday, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Courts, Snigdha Sarvaria had allowed four days’ custody of Zubair to Delhi Police in connection with one of his tweets on the micro-blogging platform Twitter in 2018 in which he allegedly hurt the religious sentiments of a community.

In a follow-up of the case, the Special Cell of Delhi Police flew Zubair to Bengaluru to recover his laptop which he used for uploading various contents on social media sites.

Zubair was charged under Indian Penal Code’s Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) for one of his objectionable tweets.

“Transmission and publication of such posts have been deliberately done by Mohammed Zubair through electronic media to insult the religious feelings of a particular community with the intent to provoke breach of peace,” read the FIR.

As per the FIR, accused Zubair had used a screengrab of an old Hindi movie which showed an image of a hotel, with its board reading ‘Hanuman hotel’ instead of ‘Honeymoon hotel’. In his tweet, Zubair had written, “BEFORE 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel”.

The complainant tagging Delhi Police had written, “Linking our God Hanuman Ji with Honeymoon is a direct insult of Hindus because he is a brahmachari. Kindly take action against this.”

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