Updated: July 1, 2022 10:12:43 pm
Issuing notice to the Delhi Police in a petition challenging a trial court order that sent Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair to four-day police remand, the Delhi High Court Friday asked them to file a counter affidavit in two weeks and a rejoinder, if any, a week thereafter.
The court will hear the matter on July 27.
Zubair was arrested on June 25 on the charge of hurting religious sentiments following a complaint over a 2018 tweet made by an anonymous Twitter user who had tagged the Delhi Police.
Justice Sanjeev Narula passed the order Friday asking the chief metropolitan magistrate to examine the material collected by the investigating agency when Zubair will be produced in court on Saturday without being prejudiced by the High Court’s order.
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Zubair’s lawyer Vrinda Grover had moved the application arguing that the remand order passed by a chief metropolitan magistrate’s court granting custody remand had allowed police to invade her client’s rights. “It’s placing a dagger into my (Zubair’s) privacy,” Grover said.
Grover told the court that Zubair’s arrest was in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines in the Arnesh Kumar judgment (that arrest should be an exception in cases involving less than seven years of punishment). She told the court that the police had “quickly changed a provision in the FIR” and that the complainant’s Twitter account pulled out a tweet from 2018 to create mischief.
“This (Twitter user) Hanuman Bhakt joined in 2021. This is the first tweet. Till June 2022, this handle did not tweet at all. This Twitter handle pulls out (Zubair’s tweet from) March 2018, perhaps with intent to mischief, I wonder why there is no enquiry. Till then, it had one follower,” Grover told the court.
Grover also questioned whether a case of this nature required the seizure of her client’s laptop and mobile phone. “There is personal liberty at stake. The question is does a case of this nature warrant remand? Could my laptop and mobile be directed to be seized? Our issue is with respect to seizure of electronic devices. This has now become a pattern,” Grover submitted.
Grover told the court that the tweet was made from a mobile phone which was now lost but police were going after his laptop. “The tweet shows it is from phone. They are asking for laptop. I am a journalist. Please see what the Supreme Court has said in the Pegasus case. My old phone is lost, despite that my present phone has been seized,” Grover submitted.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi Police, said that he did not understand why there was anxiety about the seizure of a laptop. “So far as laptop is concerned, I do not understand what is the anxiety,” Mehta said.
“It is my right to privacy. I will not grant access to my devices to the State. It is provocative,” Grover responded.
Mehta maintained that the police were not acting in a partisan manner. “FIR is only initiation of proceedings. The investigating authorities will investigate and see if there is any serious offence,” Mehta argued.
When the court asked Mehta if the police would be asking for further remand, Mehta said, “We do not know what will be the status of investigation by tonight. It would be presumptuous of me to make any statement in that regard.”
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