Fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, who was arrested last month, will be released after being granted bail in all seven cases filed against him. The court has ordered his release from jail by 6 pm today.
“We are of the view that he should be released on interim bail on all FIRs. It’s a set principle of law that power of arrests must be pursued sparingly. In present case no justification to keep him in continued detention and subject him to an endless round of proceedings in various courts,” the Supreme Court said.
“Having found that he has been subjected to a fairly sustained probe by Delhi Police we see no reason to prevent his liberty further,” the Supreme Court said.
The Uttar Pradesh government urged the court to “stop him from putting out tweets”. The request was rejected.
“It’s like telling a lawyer to not argue any further. How can you tell a journalist he cannot write? If he does something that violates the law, then he is answerable to law. But how can we take anticipatory action against a citizen when he is raising his voice? Every citizen is answerable for what he does in public or private. We will not place any such order,” said Justice DY Chandrachud.
Mohammed Zubair was arrested on June 27 by Delhi Police over a 2018 tweet. Seven more FIRs were filed against him in Uttar Pradesh.
The Supreme Court did not cancel the FIRs (First Information Report) but said he was free to approach the Delhi High Court against all the cases, which can be combined into one.
The co-founder of fact-check website Alt News was arrested over a four-year-old tweet sharing a screenshot from a popular Hindi movie.
Just days before the arrest, he had flagged on social media a video of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s provocative comments on Prophet Mohammed during a TV debate.
As he moved for bail, case after case was filed in UP.
Three cases were filed in Lakhimpur Kheri, Hathras and Sitapur over a tweet in which he called some right wing leaders “hate mongers”.
In Lakhimpur, a Sudarshan News employee filed a case accusing Mr Zubair of misleading people about his channel’s coverage of the Israel-Palestine dispute.
Mr Zubair had requested bail alleging death threats.
The Supreme Court noted that he was granted bail in the Delhi case, but it had not been “sufficient to secure his personal liberty” as he had been slapped with “successive FIRs”.
In the last hearing, the Supreme Court had called out the “vicious cycle” of interim bail in one case and arrest in another case.