The woes of arrested fact-checker journalist Mohammad Zubair do not seem to end in face of a determined administration that is opposing tooth and nail all his attempts to get judicial remedy. His bail plea was dismissed by Patiala House Court yesterday and the Alt News co-founder was sent to 14-day judicial custody. The judgement, appeared to have been leaked, was on the social media at least 4 hours before the judge pronounced it.
The fact that the Solicitor General of India appeared himself in the court to oppose the bail application of an individual says volumes about the importance the government accords to the incarceration of Mohammad Zubair.
As alleged by his colleague Pratik Sinha, the police arrested Zubair from his house without any notice on June 27. The initial charge against Mohammad Zubair is promoting enmity between different groups ( IPC Section 153A) and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings (IPC Section 295A).
However, other charges were added when the Police visited his residence in Bengaluru and searched for the device from which the tweet was made as reported. Charges of criminal conspiracy (IPC section 120B) and destruction of evidence (IPC section 201) were added to the initial charges.
It was also circulated in the media that police claimed that Mohammad Zubair has received ₹50 Lakhs in his bank account recently, a charge vehemently denied by his colleague as fake news and insisted that the money was in the account of the firm. Now, Section 35 of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act) s also applied to the list of charges against Zubair, and a probable ED investigation can not be ruled out at another stage.
A known critic of the present ruling dispensation, Zubair who is active on Twitter with the identity of @zoo_bear, was arrested ostensibly for a 2018 tweet that was found “objectionable” by an insignificant handle @balajikijaiin by the name of Hanuman Bhakt which now curiously has deleted his account.
Mohammed Zubair was arrested after he flagged a video of Nupur Sharma making derogaotry remarks on Prophet Mohammed on a TV show which prompted an unprecendented internatinal backlash from Islamic world and forced the Ruling BJP to disown it’s own spokeperson while distancing publicly form the statements.
Funnily, the tweet published by Mohammad Zubair was a reproduction of a joke from a 1983 film by widely acclaimed director Hrishikesh Mukherjee with contemporary reference.
The court said in it’s order that “Since the matter is at the initial stage of investigation and the overall facts and circumstances of the case and nature and gravity of the offences alleged against the accused, no ground for grant of bail is made out,”