The Delhi High Court on Wednesday granted four weeks to the city police to respond to a petition filed by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, seeking the restoration of the electronic devices seized by the officials during his investigation, Live Law reported.
The journalist was arrested on June 27 by a cyber unit of the Delhi Police on charges of hurting religious sentiments for a tweet that he had posted in March 2018.
The tweet contained a still from a 1983 Hindi movie of a signboard repainted from “Honeymoon Hotel” to “Hanuman Hotel”. An anonymous Twitter user with the handle @balajikijaiin alleged that the tweet hurt Hindu sentiments.
Last month, Zubair was asked to submit the devices – a mobile and a laptop – from which he made the allegedly controversial tweet.
Zubair’s lawyer Vrinda Grover, however, had objected to the police seizing the devices. She argued that a journalist’s laptop, like a lawyer’s, has “sensitive material related to their work” along with personal information. This, she said, was an attempt to “conduct a fishing inquiry” beyond the scope of the present case.
However, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria ordered the police to seize Zubair’s electronic devices without explicitly commenting on Grover’s argument.
A Delhi court on July 15 granted Zubair bail in the case.
On Wednesday, Grover moved a plea before Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav against the seizure of Zubair’s laptop and documents by the police, Live Law reported.
Grover argued that the seizure of Zubair’s mobile or laptop “is in no way related to the commission of the alleged offence in March 2018, when the tweet was posted”, The Indian Express reported.
Grover described the chief metropolitan magistrate’s directive as “a mechanical rubber stamp order”. Since the tweet was posted from Zubair’s mobile, there was no need to seize any other electronic device, she added.
But the Delhi Police sought more time to submit a reply. The Delhi High Court then listed the matter for hearing on September 15.
Other cases against Zubair
Zubair walked out of Tihar Jail after 23 days on July 20 after the Supreme Court granted him interim bail in all the six cases filed against him in Uttar Pradesh.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna said there is “no justification” to keep Zubair in further custody and subject him to an endless round of proceedings in various courts.
The court also transferred the first information reports registered against Zubair in Uttar Pradesh to the Delhi Police Special Cell. The judges disbanded a Special Investigation Team formed by the Uttar Pradesh government to investigate the FIRs against Zubair.
One case each has been filed against Zubair in the districts of Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad and two in Hathras. They are related to satirical comments about television news anchors, allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community and posting alleged inflammatory content about deities.