Skip to main content

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk 

About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues.

Excerpts:

The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence) and 295(a) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs).
As a part of AltNews which runs a factchecking website it was the job of Mr. Mohammad Zubair to verify news from across the political spectrum on social media. We believe that Mr. Zubair is being targeted maliciously for performing the role which a media person is expected to perform, namely scrupulous fact checking as well as exposing fake news and political disinformation. Mr. Zubair’s courageous, conscientious and exemplary work as a journalist upheld the highest standards of the media and his work burnished India’s global image as a democracy in which truth could be told to power.
According to the Delhi Police, the reason for his arrest is a 2018 tweet wherein Mr Zubair posted a screenshot of a 1983 film by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. However, Mr. Pratik Sinha, the co-founder of AltNews, tweeted that Mr. Zubair was called for questioning by the Delhi police in another case for which he already had protection from the court; but arrested without any notice.
The 1983 tweet is simply a pretext of seizing Mr. Zubair’s phone and laptop as investigation of the offence is barred by limitation. The seizure of the electronic devices is illegal as they are irrelevant to the FIR. Apart from violating his fundamental right to privacy his journalistic integrity and confidentiality of information and sources, we apprehend that the police may tamper with the seized material and build a false conspiracy to implicate him and other members of civil society as was done with some of the Bhima Koregaon accused by planting material on their laptops.
It is also suspicious that the account from which the complaint came was an anonymous Twitter handle @balajikijaiin by the name of Hanuman Bhakt. The account came into being on October 2021, had only one follower, and this complaint was his first tweet Although in court during Zubair’s remand, the police had submitted that the person running the Twitter account was “not anonymous”.
However, according to news reports the Delhi police sent a notice under Section 91 of CrPC to Twitter, India, in which the investigation officer informed the website about the case and they’ve asked them to provide IP log details of the anonymous Twitter handle @balajikijaiin, registration details of the account, mobile number, connected email ID, and device used by the user. This exposes the malafide of the police which is now trying to trace the complainant after using his tweet as material for an FIR against Zubair.
By failing to exercising his judicial role, the Judicial Magistrate ends up empowering the arbitrary state to flout constitutional safeguards
Apart from the above illegalities, after Zubair’s arrest his lawyers were not given a copy of the FIR despite repeated requests. They were given a copy only after the police remand order late into the night of the 27th of June. Zubair was taken around with policemen without name tags; these are all violations of the DK Basu guidelines of Arrest and Detention issued by the Supreme Court of India.
We are also perplexed that remand was granted to the police for such a frivolous case. Under the Constitutional scheme, the Magistrate is not expected to function as a glorified post office, blindly accepting the remand report and ordering remand. The Judicial Magistrate should have ensured that the mandate of Sec 41A CrPC is followed as well as the guidelines laid down in Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar to ensure that police officers do not arrest accused unnecessarily and Magistrate do not authorise detention casually and mechanically. By failing to exercising his judicial role, the Judicial Magistrate ends up empowering the arbitrary state to flout constitutional safeguards with impunity.
We demand that Delhi Police immediately release Mr. Zubair and drop all false charges against him. We also demand that the Delhi Police Commissioner take stern action against errant officials who violated the DK Basu guidelines during the arrest of Mr. Zubair. Given the illegal manner of Mr. Zubair’s arrest we are also deeply concerned about Mr. Zubair’s safety and prospect of torture in police custody.
It is ironical that on the same day as Mr. Zubair’s arrest, India along with G7 countries, signed the ‘2022 Resilient Democracies Statement’, wherein the Indian government committed to “guarding the freedom, independence and diversity of civil society actors” and “protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline”.
We hope that the Government of India will respect its obligations under the Indian Constitution as well as international laws which India has agreed to be bound by. India in accordance with its self-assumed obligations should also stand by the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted in 1998 by the UN general Assembly, ensuring the safety of all those who are critical of the government including HRDs in India, and protect the freedom of expression and opinion of all.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

You promised 50 lakh houses, give us one: Ahmedabad migrant women's plea to Modi

Women display letters containing rakhi for PM    By Hirabhai Solanki, Bhartiben Dantani, Ramesh Shrivastav*  Poor labouring families, including seasonal or long-term migrants of nearly 15 squatter settlements -- working as construction and casual workers and petty vendors, providing cheap but critically important labour for Ahmedabad city, living under plastic sheetings -- have reminded the Gujarat and Central Governments about the promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of building 50 lakh dwellings, wherein every pavement dweller and homeless would be given a decent home by the end of 2022. Holding a meeting in Ahmedabad under the aegis of the Majur Adhikaar Manch, they also referred to the appeal of the Prime Minister to poor and labouring women, seeking his support as brother by sending rakhis to protect their humble basti dwellings and provide them with decent housing, which is secure for them and their families. So far, about 300 women have posted rakhis to the Prime Ministe

A tale of horror and fraud: Profits in trillions of dollars for vaccine manufacturers?

By Aruna Rodrigues*  John Leake is a best-selling and “experienced non-fiction, true crime author”. Having just read what must be described as an extraordinary ‘telling’ of the Covid-19 saga, his book “The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex”, co-authored with Peter A McCullough, MD, MPH, is the narration of true crime on a scale that could top the list in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. The book chronicles the unique role of national governments across the world and their health agencies, led by the USA and WHO, which followed an agenda that led to completely avoidable fatalities numbering several million. The question is why? The usual culprits are money and power. But to ascribe cause to these two is woefully insufficient. The sheer magnitude of the ‘dark agenda’ – coordinated and played out by governments, health agencies, the medical establishment (hospitals, doctors and chemists) and the massive a

A countdown to disaster: Breach in fly-ash bunds of Nagpur's thermal power plants

Fly-ash dyke, Koradi thermal power plant  By Dhwani Shah, Deepmala Patel*  Last month the residents of several villages of Nagpur district woke up to the nightmare of being inundated with fly-ash. Located in the north of Nagpur city are Koradi and Khaparkheda thermal power stations which have their ash dykes in the vicinity. On July 10, 2022 at 3 am, the ash dyke of the Khaparkheda thermal power station broke, leading to ash contaminating the Kanhan river. Though the authorities claimed to have acted quickly and the fly ash dumping in the river was stopped, the claim stood to be misleading and false. Even today, the Kanhan river continues to be polluted with fly-ash, and the water supply to the city is affected. Not only did ash dyke of the Khaparkheda power station break, on July 16, 2022, the ash bund of the Koradi thermal power plant also broke. Fly-ash and water stored in the dyke gushed downstream to six villages -- drowning houses, water bodies and farmlands. With such large-

Kailash Satyarthi NGO floats new centre in Delhi to 'empower' underprivileged children

By Our Representative  A voluntary organisation linked with Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported NGO has floated a unique children’s resource centre at Sanjay Camp, Chankyapuri, New Delhi, in order to facilitate in imparting remedial education, recreational training and holistic development of children of around 2,500 under-privileged slum-dwelling families. Virender Singh Kadian, MLA of Delhi Cantonment, inaugurated the centre, which is called Shaheed Kalu Bal Vikas Kendra. The resource centre is in memory of Kalu Kumar, who died at an young age serving and working towards the development of under-privileged children, said an NGO source. A firebrand activist, Kalu Kumar was trafficked from Bihar to the carpet manufacturing belt of Allahabad when he was six. He was rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan at the age of 10. A bright student, Kalu he covered up the lost ground very quickly and grew up to become a leader fighting for the rights of other child slaves at Bal Ashram. In

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Multi-crore NRC updation scam? Awaited: Assam media's self-cleaning mechanism

By Nava Thakuria  If some editor-journalists are allegedly involved in a financial scam, shouldn't the people get an opportunity to identify them? As the mainstream newspapers and news channels of Assam are avoiding the issue in their coverage, how come the actual picture will come to the public domain? If the mainstream media outlets intentionally kill the news, reasons best known to the editors, should the social media users take a lead? By now a number of senior journalists (with experience in print journalism for many decades) have highlighted the issue in social media. Their message is loud and clear- identify the corrupt television journalists who grabbed a huge amount of money which is actually meant for thousands of Assamese professionals. It all began when a second first information report (FIR) was filed by the outgoing State coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC) against his predecessor alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in A

RSS, Sangh Parivar consider tricolour as "state flag" and not "national flag"

By Teesta Setalvad* Today, when the nation has been independent for 67 years, the Sangh Parivar is set to launch ‘Tiranga yatras’ and Satyagrahas to defend the honour of the flag and the nation. Yet when the Indian people were involved in the decades-long struggle for freedom against British imperialism, the RSS was conspicuous by its absence in the struggle. When thousands of people faced lathis, bullets and jail sentences for hoisting the tiranga and participated all over the country in satyagraha during the Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements against the British Raj, the Sangh publicly took the stand that it would not take part in the movement and seldom missed the opportunity of assuring the British rulers that they would keep to the right side of colonial law and avoid any clash with the authorities. Of course the reason given for this was that the Sangh was secretly strengthening itself and would take on British imperialism only when it was strong enough to do so! A simil

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Since 2015 Govt of India didn't allocate single rupee to Gujarat for RTI training, awareness

By Pankti Jog*  The Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India (GoI) has allocated Rs 8.7 crore to Maharashtra for conducting Right to Information (RTI) training and awareness between 2015 to 2022. Of this, Rs 5.9 crore has gone to the Maharashtra State Training Institute, YASHADA, and Rs 3.01 crore have gone to the State Information Commission, Maharashtra. Gujarat, on the other hand, has not received even a single rupee over the last seven years for RTI programmes. Even Gujarat’s State Information Commission too has not not received any funds since 2005. RTI is one of the effective tools to bring transparency and accountability in the administration, thus improve governance. If citizens are aware, they would participate in a more meaningful manner in governance. They would effectively monitor planning and expenses of public programmes. Indeed, it is necessary that RTI is taken to every citizen, for which the government needs to conduct awareness drives and training

Anti-untouchability brass coin yatra to Delhi getting 'overwhelming' response: Macwan

By Our Representative  Gujarat’s top Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan, who is currently leading a week-long procession to Delhi carrying a 1,111 kg brass coin with the pointed question embossed on it, “Will the 1947 dream of untouchability free India be a reality in 2047?”, has reiterated that the removal of untouchability in India is Dalits’ primary concern, and not opposition to the new Parliament building. The march began in Ahmedabad on August 1 at 8:00 am amidst refusal of the Gujarat police a day earlier refusing to give the permission for the procession, which involves a small truck carrying the huge brass coin, another one with an Ambedkar statue, two trucks full of about 25 lakh one rupee coins donated by Dalits across India, and six buses with 300 Dalit activists. The brass coin has the image of BR Ambedkar on one side, and of Lord Buddha, on the other. Starting at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), founded by Macwan to provide technical-cum-empowerment training to the underpriv