Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur court today rejected bail to fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, who has had a series of FIRs filed against him recently. In the Lakhimpur case, the complaint has been filed by a Sudarshan News employee for a tweet by Mr Zubair last year. The tweet, says the complainant, misled people about the Sudarshan channel’s coverage of the Israel-Palestine dispute.Mr Zubair is already in judicial custody till July 27 in Hathras.
The hearing on police custody remand will be held on July 20, Mr Zubair’s advocate Harjit Singh told news agency ANI. The sessions court of Lakhimpur Kheri’s Mohammadi had summoned him in a case registered on September 18, 2021, after a complaint was filed by a Sudarshan News employee. The court had sent him to judicial custody for 14 days on Monday.
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Mohammed Zubair’s lawyer had said that the complainant had raised an objection regarding the bail plea filed in English, due to which the hearing (for the bail) was postponed.
A total of seven FIRs — six in UP and one in Delhi — have been filed against Mr Zubair, the co-founder of fact-check website Alt News.
Mr Zubair was on Friday granted bail in the case filed by the Delhi Police over a 2018 tweet, for which he was arrested last month.
While granting bail to Mr Zubair in the 2018 case, Additional Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala had said Indian democracy and political parties are open to criticism, which means mere criticism of any party can’t be the basis to punish a person.
“The voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy…Undoubtedly free speech is the proper foundation of a democratic society,” the court said.
The fact-checker has been arrested in four out of the seven cases, and judicial custody has been ordered in two cases. He had requested the Supreme Court to cancel six cases filed against him by the Uttar Pradesh Police. He had also asked that the Special Investigation Team formed to investigate the cases be called off.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Mr Zubair had requested the Supreme Court to grant him bail and had alleged that he was receiving death threats. Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna gave the UP government four weeks to respond to Mr Zubair’s plea.
That day, the Uttar Pradesh police formed a Special Investigation Team to probe multiple cases against him.
Mohammed Zubair was arrested on June 27 by the Delhi Police over his four-year-old tweet sharing a screenshot from a popular Hindi movie.
He was charged and arrested just days after he flagged a video of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s provocative comments on Prophet Mohammed during a TV debate.