A court in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on Friday issued a warrant summoning Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair before it on July 11 shortly after he got interim bail in another case.
Earlier on Friday, the Supreme Court had granted Zubair interim bail for five days in a case filed against him by the Uttar Pradesh Police for calling three Hindutva supremacists “hatemongers” in a tweet. The journalist, however, cannot walk free as he is in judicial custody in another case filed by the Delhi Police.
The case in Lakhimpur Kheri was filed in September after a court order. The complaint was filed by Ashish Kumar Katiyar, a journalist working with Sudarshan News.
He objected to a tweet posted by Zubair on May 16, 2021, pointing out that Sudarshan News had superimposed a fabricated image of the Al Masjid An Nabawi mosque in Medina on a picture of the Gaza strip to falsely portray that the mosque was being destroyed in an Israeli rocket attack.
In his complaint, Katiyar alleged that Zubair had made a fake claim on Twitter against Sudarshan News. Katiyar also alleged that Zubair had made an appeal to Muslims all over the world to create unrest and disrupt peace in India to create a “war-like situation”.
“However some Twitter users responded to accused no 1 [Zubair], following which he again posted anti-national content on May 15,” the complainant alleged.
The police had booked the Alt News co-founder under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to promoting enmity between social groups.
On Friday, the police in Lakhimpur Kheri moved a court seeking a warrant against him. “The Lakhimpur Kheri court has summoned Zubair in court on July 11,” Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Suman said. The police served the warrant at the Sitapur district jail, where the journalist is lodged.
Zubair had moved the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court last month refused to quash the first information report filed in Sitapur for calling the three Hindutva supremacists as hatemongers. All three seers – Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati, Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop – have been booked in hate speech cases in the past few months for making inflammatory statements about Muslims.
At the hearing in the Supreme Court, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing Zubair, had argued that his client only raised his voice against hate speech by religious leaders and did not engage in such an act himself.
On the other hand, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju appearing for the investigating officer, had alleged that Zubair’s tweet was an attempt to promote disharmony among religious groups. He had said that the journalist should have sent a letter to the Uttar Pradesh Police about the Hindutva supremacists instead of tweeting.
Raju had also described Hindutva supremacist seer Bajrang Muni, who had in April issued rape threats to Muslim women, as a “respected religious leader”, triggering widespread criticism on social media.