The Chhattisgarh High Court on Monday granted interim protection from arrest to fact-checking website Alt News’ co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who has been accused of “harassing and torturing” a minor girl online, Live Law reported. The court said that no coercive action should be taken against Zubair for a first information report filed against him in the case.
Two FIRs have been filed against Zubair under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Information Technology Act in Delhi and Raipur.
A bench of Justice Sanjay Kumar Agarwal passed the order based on Zubair’s petition, asking for the FIR in Raipur to be quashed. Last month, the Delhi High Court had also granted Zubair interim protection from arrest.
The FIRs against Zubair are related to a comment he made on Twitter on August 6. A Twitter user named Jagdish Singh had responded to one of Zubair’s posts with an abusive message. Zubair, in his response to Singh, pointed out that his Twitter profile picture showed a little girl. “Does your cute grand daughter know about your part time job of abusing people on social media?” Zubair had asked. “I suggest you to change your profile pic.” He had blurred the child’s image in his response.
Zubair’s lawyer Colin Gonsalves had told the Delhi High Court last month that his client was often harassed and abused because of his work as a fact-checker. He claimed that Singh was a “serial harasser” who criticised anyone with liberal and progressive opinions.
Alt News had backed Zubair as he battled the harassment allegations. “An attempt is being made to hound co-founder of Alt News, Mohammed Zubair, through misuse of legal apparatus,” the website’s founder Pratik Sinha had said in a statement on September 6. “Alt News stands by Mohammed Zubair. Zubair has been in the forefront of fighting fake narratives, and his work hurts those who have weaponised misinformation to subvert the Indian democracy.”