A Delhi court on Saturday rejected the bail plea of Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair in a case related to an alleged objectionable tweet considering the initial stage of investigation and the gravity of the offence.
The court sent Mohd Zubair to 14-day judicial custody.
Delhi police on Saturday said Pravada media received donations from foreign countries including Pakistan and the accused is the director of that company.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria dismissed the bail petition after hearing the submission of the defence counsel and special public prosecutor (SPP) Atul Srivastava.
The court observed in the order that since the investigation is at the initial stage and in view of the circumstances and gravity of the offence, no ground is made out for bail. Application dismissed and the accused is remanded to judicial custody till July 16, 2022.
Delhi police had sought judicial custody of Mohd Zubair. He was produced before the court after four days of police custody. He was arrested on June 27, 2022.
SPP Atul Srivastava submitted that three new sections for the destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act have been added to the FIR.
It is alleged by police that the accused received donations from foreign countries namely Pakistan, Syria, Australia and middle eastern countries. This is to be investigated.
In this connection, Section 35 of the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act has been invoked in the FIR.
Police alleged that the evidence was destroyed by deleting the data by formatting the phone. It is also alleged there is a conspiracy on the part of the accused.
On the other hand, Advocate Vrinda Grover opposed the judicial custody remand application. Counsel pressed the bail application saying that this is malicious prosecution and with mala fide intention. The entire exercise is mala fide in nature.
She raised a question, "Is it a crime to change a sim card, is it a crime to reformat the phone?"
"They have my phone, now the whole exercise is for my laptop. This is a phishing and roving inquiry. They have recovered my laptop from my home in Bangaluru. It is quite surprising that they did not take any technical person with them to Bangaluru," Mohd Zubair said in his plea.
Advocate Grover submitted that the article seized were not sealed. Data integrity has to be protected. It can be manipulated. The hash value is not given to date, there is a likelihood of tampering and manipulation which would attract new sections to the petitioner.
Mohd Zubair said in his plea said that the alleged tweet of 24 March 2018 was made from a phone and he had lodged a complaint in 2021 that his phone was snatched.
Advocate Grover argued that Delhi Police registered this case on the basis of a Twitter handle that is anonymous and was started in October 2021. The handle pull out Mohd Zubair's tweet of 2018 and Delhi Police found the retweet made by this Twitter handle.
"Do they want to create communal disharmony?" Vrinda Grover raised a question.
"Actually it is you (Delhi police) who want to create a problem. We have the right. We have freedom. We live in a constitutional democracy. Section 295 A required a deliberate attempt. My tweet is not related to any religion or any god," the counsel argued.
"You did not ask me to bring any phone neither it was summoned. It was my private property and I have every right to format it. It does not cast any person unless it is a case property. Section 201 attracts when there is the destruction of evidence. My phone was not a case property. The conspiracy-related section cannot be invoked as I am the only accused in this case," defence counsel argued.
It was argued by Advocate Grover that invocation of section 35 is a practice to prejudice the case.
She argued that the Police informed the media that there are many transactions from foreign countries and that Pravada media received money from foreign countries.
The maximum punishment is 5 years and bail is a rule not jail. All the tweets are there, all other sociopath tweet handles are there, and nobody is interrogated. This court is to guard the right of the accused. The supreme court has directed to do so, the defence counsel argued.