The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday issued a notice on a plea filed by journalist Mohammad Zubair seeking transit bail in a case registered against him for sharing a video of an assault of an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad, reported Live Law.
Zubair along with news website The Wire, journalists Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Masqoor Usmani and Sama Mohammad have been booked for sharing the video. Social media platform Twitter has also been booked as the posts were shared on it.
The police have filed the first information report against them under sections 153 (giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (statements conducting public mischief) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
The FIR said that despite a clarification put out by the Ghaziabad Police, ruling out any communal angle, the users did not delete the posts and Twitter took no action to remove them.
During Tuesday’s hearing, advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, told the High Court that the Uttar Pradesh Police sent the notice to the journalist on Monday under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code and asked him to appear before the investigating officer on June 28 to record his statement. In its notice, the police said they had no intention to arrest Zubair as the offences in the first information report were punishable with under seven years in jail.
The High Court then observed that since the notice was sent under section 41A, he would not be arrested if he complied, according to Newslaundry. Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code states that the police will not arrest residents if they comply with the notice to appear before them.
The High Court also noted that Zubair, who is also the co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews, did not need transit bail as there was no apprehension of arrest.
Grover requested the court to note in its order that the police have specified they will not arrest the journalist. The lawyer said this would provide some security to Zubair, according to NewsLaundry.
The court also asked why the journalist had not approached the Allahabad High Court, which has jurisdiction in the case, for the transit bail. To this, Grover said they applied for bail to the Karnataka High Court as Zubair lives within its jurisdiction and that online filing for transit bail in Allahabad would take time.
Grover also pointed out that the Bombay High Court had granted transit anticipatory bail to Rana Ayyub, another journalist who has been booked in the same case.
The High Court then sought the notice sent to Zubair, a copy of Ayyub’s transit bail order and the police complaint. The court will take up the matter again on June 29.
Zubair and others were booked for sharing a video of the assault on the elderly man that had been circulating on social media since June 14. The video shows 72-year-old Abdul Samad Saifi saying that he had been abducted in an autorickshaw by several men and locked up in a secluded house on June 5 in Ghaziabad district’s Loni area. Saifi alleged he was assaulted and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. He also said the assailants cut his beard and made him watch videos of other Muslims being attacked.
The Ghaziabad Police, which registered a case based on Saifi’s complaint, claimed on June 15 that there was no communal angle to the assault. The police also claimed that the tweets on the viral video were “an attempt to destroy communal harmony”.
The first information report, lodged by a police officer, alleged that they had put out tweets with the intention of stoking communal unrest. It said that despite a clarification by the police ruling out any communal angle, the users did not delete their posts and Twitter took no action to remove them.