Opposing the bail application of Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair, arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments following a complaint over a 2018 tweet, the prosecution has submitted before a Delhi court that they are investigating donations allegedly received by him from several foreign countries such as Pakistan.
Zubair’s lawyers argued that police misled the court as they had earlier released a statement stating that the funds were received by a media company. The court is expected to pronounce its order in the case shortly.
Zubair was produced before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Savaria following the expiration of his four-day police custody. The police did not seek immediate extension of his police custody and instead asked that he be sent to 14-day judicial custody.
The police told the court that they have added three new provisions in the FIR including section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) , 120(B) (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The prosecution also maintained that they may seek Zubair’s further custody in the future.
Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava submitted to the court that Zubair “accepted payments through RazorPay from Pakistan, Syria, Australia, Singapore, UAE, which all require further investigation”.
“If you accept something – donation, etc from a person of foreign country – then it’s a contravention. As per our CDR analysis, he has accepted through Razor gateway, from Pakistan, Syria, etc which all things require further investigation,” Srivastava argued.
Grover argued that the investigation has to be to prosecute a crime and not harass or bismerch someone. She said that the police were giving updates to the media and this was “a practice the court must deprecate”.
She referred to a police statement which circulated in the morning which stated that the analysis or reply received from RazorPay Payment gateway revealed there are various transactions in which either the mobile phone number is from outside India or the IP address is of foreign countries and cities. The statement alleged that a total of Rs 2,31,933 was received by Pravda media.
“During the social media analysis, it was noticed that Twitter handles which had supported the accused Mohammad Zubair and had tweeted in support of Mohammad Zubair after his arrest were mostly from middle eastern countries like UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and countries like Pakistan,” the statement read.
Grover argued that the police had misled the court as they made a submission in court that Zubair received the funds but in their statement mentioned the company, Pravda.
“Pravda is a section 8 company. Funds are going as per their update. See if there is one financial transaction of a foreign company. This power is not given to mislead the court. Throw something in the media to say ‘oh something is happening’. Say that foreign money is there. All transactions are proved. These are financial transactions. How can they make a submission (that) it has gone into my account?,” Grover submitted.
The prosecutor told the court that Zubair was the director of the company.
“You are the director. Becoming a journalist is not a crime, doing such type of things is a crime and you deserve to be prosecuted,” Shrivastava argued.
Grover argued that it was “not a crime to be a director” and that no notice was served to the company.
“A company taking funds is not a violation of FCRA. You have not issued notice to Pravda. You said the journalist took (funds) and then said Pravda. Facts have been muddied up. This is why we need a fact checker in this country,” Grover submitted.
The prosecutor argued that the donations will be investigated and they need access to his phone to get further details on the contributions.
Grover argued that instead bank account transactions be seen as they contain details of every transaction.
Grover further argued that the “entire exercise is mala fide in nature and is a non prosecutable action of FIR”.