The Supreme Court will on Tuesday take up a plea by Alt News co-founderseeking quashing of the case filed by UP police in Sitapur for hurting religious sentiments through a tweet, in which he called some Hindu seers “hatemongers”.
Zubair’s plea has been listed before a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna.
On July 8, a vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheshwari had directed that his plea be listed before a regular bench. Issuing notice, it also granted him five-day interim bail on condition that he would not tweet or tamper with electronic evidence.
As Zubair is facing multiple cases, the court clarified that it was giving him interim bail only in the case before it.
Opposing the plea for bail and quashing of the, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the state of UP, contended that Zubair had suppressed several facts, including that his bail plea was rejected by a court in Sitapur.
Mehta submitted that it “is not about one tweet” but “whether he is part of a syndicate which is regularly posting such tweets with intention to destabilise the country”. Mehta said that after the tweet, there was a law and order situation and that’s why there is an investigation.
Pointing out that Zubair has more cases against him, Mehta said he is a “habitual offender”, and that his “overall conduct is being investigated”.
The case in Sitapur is based on a complaint lodged by Hindu Lion Army district president Bhagwan Sharan, who alleged that Zubair had referred to spiritual leader Bajrang Muni as a “hatemonger” in a tweet in May. According to the FIR, Zubair also insulted Yati Narsinghanand and Swami Anand Swaroop on Twitter.
Appearing for him, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted that the FIR “deserves to be quashed because even if I accept everything, there is no criminal case”.
Explaining the tweets, Gonsalves said: “I am not speaking against any religion. I’m only speaking about hate speech that has appeared in respect of which the police have arrested these persons for hate speech.”
He said, “They have arrested persons for hate speech of the most horrific kind. They released them on bail…and the hate speech started again…” Pointing out that all those who delivered hate speeches were released on bail, Gonsalves said, “And I (Zubair) who tweet this, a secular tweeter, is in jail.”