Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact checking website Alt News, did not edit any images but used a still image from a Hindi film in his tweet, and his arrest over this borders on absurdity, his lawyers told a Delhi court on Tuesday.
The Delhi Police produced Zubair before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Savaria, who sent him to four-day police custody.
The police had moved a five-day police custody application, arguing that they need to get access to his laptop to further investigate the case. The police submitted that Zubair had edited the image used in the tweet.
Zubair was represented by advocate Vrinda Grover, who opposed the police remand and submitted that the still image Zubair tweeted was from the Hindi film, ‘Kisi Se Na Kehna’.
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“IFSO (Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations), looking at cyber crime, would have professional of cyber cases which is better than mine. This image is from a film of Rishikesh Mukherjee… The video is available on the internet. In 1983 this film was made. This image is from the film. There is no editing that the accused or anyone else has done,” Grover submitted.
Grover then explained the scene from which the still image was used. She told the court that in this scene, the actress had remarked on seeing the board outside a hotel that it is “not honeymoon hotel, this is Hanuman hotel”.
“This image shown as a reason for arresting someone comes from a Hindi cinema image. This is an image of a Rishikesh Mukherjee film. Not a place of worship. This is a joke on the honeymooners. Where is the damage? Prima facie where is the case? Yes I am journalist, have a Twitter following and speak my mind in an independent country. See the anonymous Twitter handle. That opens only in 2021. He says this is offensive to Hindus. The entire case borders on absurdity.”
“Many have tweeted the same, the only difference between those handles and mine is my faith, my name and my profession,” Grover told the court.
The police had Monday arrested Zubair on charges of allegedly hurting religious sentiments following a complaint by a social media user who referred to a tweet from 2018. The complainant in the case goes by the Twitter name Hanuman Bhakt, with an image of Lord Hanuman as his profile photo.
Grover also told the court that the same tweet has been retweeted by multiple people who celebrated the fact that honeymoon has been turned into Hanuman in India post 2014.
“People are laughing, applauding, clapping. Multiple people are celebrating this that honeymoon has been turned into Hanuman (in the tweet). They are naming the political party saying this is good. What am I arrested for? Zubair was maliciously targeted. This film was not banned. Everyone saw this and enjoyed this film. It has the CBFC certificate. There are multiple Twitter handles uploading… I will not take their names,” Grover told the court.
Grover also argued that none of the ingredients attracted in the IPC section was satisfied by the police.
“Where does my tweet insult any religion? (From) 2018 to 2022 these tweets have not created a flutter. The people of this country have gone on with their life. There is nothing in my tweet… Not a single ingredient of the offences invoked in this case is satisfied. Which are the two groups where enmity is created? Who does it incite, what are the groups? Honeymooners and brahmacharis are not two groups creating unrest in this country,” Grover submitted.
She told the court that the police was seeking Zubair’s laptop because he was “challenging many things that are happening”.
“The police is abusing its power. Today my laptop and phone is a storehouse of my personal information. They want my laptop because I am a journalist. Our laptops contain sensitive information. A fishing enquiry begins when the laptop is seized. That tweet cannot withstand any legal scrutiny. I have been challenging people who are speaking certain things. Will that deprive me of my liberty?” Grover submitted.
Talking about the complainant’s Twitter handle, Grover submitted this was an anonymous Twitter handle which needed to be investigated.
“This was his first tweet. He digs out a tweet causing no disturbance and disorder. Who is playing mischief here? This officer seems to follow an account which doesn’t have much followers. If an anonymous Twitter handle chose to create mischief then that has to be investigated. My client is being targeted. He may be someone who challenges people who are powerful and that can’t be the reason for his arrest,” Grover submitted.
Grover also submitted that Zubair had a different phone in 2018 and that the mobile had been lost.
“I even have the list article report. Arresting me and threatening me will not recover a lost mobile phone. If I commit a crime no one is to be spared. But if the police are acting with malice then the court will not turn a blind eye,” Grover submitted.
Grover told the court that Zubair was called for questioning in a separate case but was arrested in the present FIR in an “unseemly haste”.
She also apprised the court of a Delhi High Court order which granted him protection from arrest in 2019 in a separate case.
The public prosecutor stated that Zubair had made at least four more posts insulting religious sentiments. As an example, he mentioned a post made by the accused about the Mahabharata character Sanjay using a laptop.
“Accused is a journalist and a fact checker, still using these tweets and posting them on Twitter account. This is a trend to make themselves famous, by tweeting material which outrages religious feelings,” the prosecutor argued.
“His deliberate act is there on record which is outraging the religious sentiment. He is not an anonymous complainant. We have his details. We have to recover those laptop and instruments by which he posted these posts. There is a requirement of his police remand. This is the first time it came to our knowledge that these posts were posted by him,” the prosecutor submitted.
The prosecutor also submitted that all apps were deleted from Zubair’s mobile phone.
“He threatened the investigating officer. His parents have laptop from which data will be deleted, he said. He came with a blank phone. He also put out another post which said that if you do Hanuman pooja then monkeys will not disturb you in the night,” the prosecutor submitted.
“This is a quote of a sitting CM. You are making fun of a sitting CM, think about it,” Grover submitted.
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