Objectionable tweet case: Alt News' Zubair denies before HC posting content to gain popularity
Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who is being probed for posting an alleged objectionable tweet against a Hindu deity in 2018, denied before the Delhi High Court the claim of city police that he posted content that triggers religious sentiments to gain popularity.
Zubair claimed that the Delhi police has attributed "false and concocted theories" to him in the name of "disclosure statements", which is a "subversion of the rule of law" and made a "mockery of due process", and the search and seizure from his residence were carried out with malafide reasons.
Following a status report filed by the Delhi Police on the investigation in the case, he claimed that he has not made any disclosure statement to the agency in relation to the recovery of certain devices and any such disclosure is "wholly false, wrong, concocted and inadmissible in law".
Delhi Police, in its status report filed in September, had told the court that during Zubair's police custody remand, one laptop, two invoices and a hard disk were recovered from his Bengaluru residence based on a disclosure statement that was admissible under the Indian Evidence Act and has to be looked upon at the time of trial.
The status report was filed in response to a plea by Zubair against his arrest and search and seizure exercise in the case.
"It is alleged that ... Mohd. Zubair disclosed that the laptop and mobile phone used by him for posting the above content is at his residence'... (It) is categorically and completely denied as wrong, false and concocted.
"It is asserted that I did not make any such disclosure as the tweet in question dates back to 2018 and I clearly and specifically told the police/investigating officer that I no longer have the mobile phone device which I had been using in 2018, at my residence, as the same was lost," Zubair said in his affidavit in reply to the status report.
"The statement attributed to me as a disclosure is manifestly wrong, false and concocted, to fabricate a non-existent ground to unlawfully raid my residence and seize my laptop and hard disk, which I use for my journalistic fact-checking work.
"The said search and seizure from my residence was thus carried out with malafide reasons extraneous to the need for investigation," he stated.
"A series of false and concocted theories have been attributed to me as disclosures, and the same are denied and rejected as false, wrong, concocted and baseless, and I state that I did not make any such disclosure during the course of the investigation," he said.
Zubair stated in the reply that he was a fact checker who posted content on social media to debunk misinformation and fake news and his work was not limited to any particular kind of posts.
"I categorically and specifically deny that in order to gain popularity I post content that triggers religious sentiments.
"I am a fact checker and I post content on social media debunking fake news, misinformation and disinformation of all kinds, and my work is not limited to any particular kind of posts, nor do I post content for popularity or any other material gain," he asserted.
Zubair, represented by lawyers Vrinda Grover and Soutik Banerjee, submitted that the admissibility of the recoveries during the police investigation remains under contest as they are wholly illegal and all investigative steps premised on the purported disclosures, including the search and seizure, are inadmissible.
"The actions of the investigating officer in creating false and concocted disclosure statements to sustain the investigation are a subversion of the rule of law and make a mockery of due process.
"That the purported have been prepared while I was in police custody without my knowledge, and I have only learnt about the same from the status report dated 14.09.2022 filed by the Respondent in the captioned proceedings," the reply said.
Zubair had moved the high court earlier this year against the legality and propriety of a trial court's June 28 order granting his custody to police for four days in the case.
As an interim relief, he prayed that till the petition is decided by the high court, the police shall not venture into Zubair's laptop as the tweet was made through a mobile phone and not the computer.
On July 1, the high court issued notice on Zubair's petition and granted time to the investigating agency to file its response to the plea.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets and was subsequently granted bail by the trial court.
Earlier in June, a case was registered against Zubair under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language, etc.) and 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Police had said the case was registered on the complaint of a Twitter user who accused him of hurting religious sentiments.
Police, while seeking an extension of Zubair's custody by five days, had alleged before the trial court that the accused was following a trend where he used religious tweets in an effort to get famous and that there was a deliberate effort to create social disharmony and hurt religious feelings.
The investigating agency also said the accused joined the probe but did not cooperate and various materials from his phone were deleted.