The Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday formed a Special Investigation Team to look into six cases registered in the state against Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, ANI reported citing Sanjeev Suman, the superintendent of police of Lakhimpur Kheri district.

The team will look into one case each filed in the districts of Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad and two cases filed in Hathras, according to a notification of the Uttar Pradesh Police.

The cases pertain to making satirical comments on anchors of television channels, allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community and posting allegedly inflammatory content about deities.

The investigation team will be led by Inspector General (Prison) of Lucknow Preetinder Singh. Deputy Inspector General of Lucknow Police, Amit Verma, is the other member of the team. The Special Investigation Team will collaborate with police in the five districts and file chargesheet at the earliest, the police notification stated.

Cases against Zubair

The development came hours after the Supreme Court extended interim bail granted to Zubair in the Sitapur case until further orders. However, he remains in custody as he has also been named in several other cases.

Zubair has been booked in 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.

In the Lakhimpur Kheri case, an Uttar Pradesh court on Monday sent Zubair to judicial custody for 14 days. Zubair was booked in this case in September for fact-checking a report carried by the television channel Sudarshan News about the Israel-Palestine dispute.

The complaint 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.

In the tweet, Zubair had pointed 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.

The details of the four other cases filed in Hathras, Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad, which the Special Investigation Team will look into, are not clear yet.

In Ghaziabad’s Loni town, Zubair has been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (statements conducing public mischief), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).

In Muzaffarnagar, a case has been filed under Indian Penal Code Sections 192 (fabricating false evidence), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation).

In Sikandra Rao town of Hathras district, he is booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 153A, 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 120B.

In Kotwali area of Hathras, a case is registered against him under Indian Penal Code Sections 153A, 295A and 298 (uttering words to hurt religious feelings). He is also booked under Section 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.

In a separate case, the Delhi Police had arrested Zubair on June 27 for a tweet that he had posted in March 2018.

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.