The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended interim bail granted to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in the Sitapur case until further orders, Live Law reported.

Zubair has been booked in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur for calling three Hindutva supremacists hatemongers in a tweet. All three of the seers mentioned by Zubair – 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.

On July 8, the Supreme Court had granted the 39-year-old journalist interim bail for five days. However, he remains in custody as he has also been named in several other cases.

At Tuesday’s hearing, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud gave four weeks to the Uttar Pradesh government to file an affidavit stating its stand in the case. The bench listed the case on September 7 for final disposal.

Enforce SC directives on bail, says Zubair’s lawyer

Earlier in the day, Zubair’s lawyer Vrinda Grover told a Delhi court that the Supreme Court’s directives reiterating that granting of bail must be the rule in criminal cases should be enforced by the law of the land, Bar and Bench reported.

The Delhi Police had arrested Zubair on June 27 for a tweet that he had posted in March 2018.

Grover on Tuesday referred to a judgement by the Supreme Court in a separate case on Monday that asked the Union government to consider enacting a “Bail Act” to streamline the granting of bail. The Supreme Court had noted that jails in the country are “flooded with undertrial prisoners” and said that the problem had been caused mainly due to unnecessary arrests, according to Live Law.

The lawyer told Additional Sessions Judge Devender Kumar Jangala that her client was neither concealing nor denying the tweet for which he was arrested.

The first information report against Zubair in the national capital was based on a complaint by Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Arun Kumar, who said he was monitoring social media when he came across the March 2018 tweet after a handle named Hanuman Bhakt raised objections.

The handle had taken objection to Zubair’s tweet showing a hotel signboard with the name “Honeymoon Hotel” repainted to “Hanuman Hotel”. The journalist’s lawyer has argued in court that the photo is a screenshot taken from a 1983 Hindi movie named Kissi Se Na Kehna.

Grover said that it had been four years since Zubair posted the tweet and 37 years since the film was released, and the scene had not caused any violence or disruption in law and order. She questioned whether the police did not see other tweets with the same content while monitoring social media.

Grover said that there was “malafide writ large” in the case registered by the Delhi Police, according to Bar and Bench.

Meanwhile, Special Public Prosecutor Atul Srivastava sought more time in order to make detailed arguments before the court, PTI reported. Srivastava also said that the Supreme Court was slated to hear a petition by Zubair on Tuesday.

The additional sessions judge posted the matter for further hearing on July 14.

On Monday, a court in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri sent Zubair to judicial custody for 14 days in a case registered against him in September for fact-checking a report carried by the television channel Sudarshan News about the Israel-Palestine dispute.

The complaint in the Lakhimpur Kheri case was filed by Ashish Kumar Katiyar, a journalist working with Sudarshan News. The police registered a first information report on September 18, 2021, after Katiyar approached a local court seeking directions for the same.

According to the first information report, Katiyar claimed that on May 14, 2021, in connivance with Twitter, Zubair had spread rumours against Sudarshan TV based on “false graphics”. The FIR did not reproduce the contents of the tweet or mention its URL.