Zubair moves apex court for quashing of 6 UP FIRs

Jul 15, 2022 12:10 AM IST

The Alt News co-founder has complained that the FIRs in UP are a ‘brazen and unconscionable abuse’ of legal process, and hence deserve to be quashed.

Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair approached the Supreme Court on Thursday with a plea for quashing the six first information reports (FIRs) registered against him in Uttar Pradesh over his tweets, claiming he is being targeted by a network of influential persons who are weaponising the criminal law machinery to deprive him of his liberty.

Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair being produced in a Sitapur court. (ANI)(HT_PRINT)
Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair being produced in a Sitapur court. (ANI)(HT_PRINT)

In the petition filed on Thursday, the fact-checker complained that of the total seven FIRs against him, six FIRs were filed in UP alone although the entire gamut of the accusations against him were being investigated by the Delhi police in an FIR (the seventh, and also the first to be filed ) registered at the national capital last month. Zubair complained that FIRs in UP are a brazen and unconscionable abuse of legal process, and hence deserve to be quashed.

Also Read: UP forms SIT to look into 6 cases on Mohammed Zubair

“In any event, Special Cell of Delhi Police is already investigating all the tweets of the petitioner as well as his finances and earnings, and is also investigating the existence of any larger conspiracy behind the petitioner’s tweets, if any...it is against the interest of justice to allow multiplicity of proceedings, especially when the said FIRs fail to make out a cognizable offence,” stated Zubair’s petition in the top court, filed through advocate Aakarsh Kamra.

Zubair’ personal liberty, said the plea, has been completely jeopardized without following due procedure established by law, while requesting the court either to quash the six FIRs in UP or club all of them with the FIR at Delhi to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and prolonged detention.

“The petition is being filed by a fact-checker and journalist who is being targeted by a network of persons enjoying influence and patronage with extraneous and ulterior motives, who have weaponised the criminal law machinery to deprive the petitioner of his personal liberty, silence and muzzle the petitioner’s freedom of speech,” contended the plea.

It added: “After the petitioner was remanded to judicial custody in Delhi case on July 2, 2022, the entire criminal justice machinery of Uttar Pradesh seems to have woken up from deep slumber to embroil the petitioner in multiplicity of proceedings, using criminal law as an instrument of harassment, by arresting the petitioner in old FIRs and new FIRs having similar subject matter as the FIR already under investigation by Delhi Police.”

Zubair also complained against the constitution of a two-member special investigation team (SIT) formed by the UP government on Tuesday to look into the six cases filed against him in the state. The SIT comprises inspector general Preetinder Singh, currently posted at Department of Prisons Administration and Reform, and deputy inspector general of police Amit Verma.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a Hathras local court in UP remanded Zubair to judicial custody for 14 days in connection with a case registered there on July 4 on a complaint by a man named Deepak Sharma over the fact-checker’s alleged remarks on Hindu gods and goddesses in a 2018 tweet.

Zubair was brought to the Hathras court from Tihar jail in Delhi where he faces a similar case and is currently seeking bail after his arrest on June 27. Apart from one more FIR in Hathras, the other FIRs pending against Zubair in UP under similar charges are in Sitapur, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, and Lakhimpur Kheri. He has been booked for promoting enmity between communities and hate speeches, propagated through his tweets.

The maximum punishment under the charges invoked against Zubair is less than seven years in jail, which according to the Supreme Court rulings in 2014 and more recently on July 11, means that he should be arrested only when there are specific reasons to do so (if he is a flight risk or could influence witnesses). The police must also demonstrate that there is a necessity for an arrest, as per the SC judgments.

This is the second petition of Zubair in the Supreme Court. He approached the court on July 7 for quashing of the FIR against him at Sitapur. The apex court granted him interim bail on July 8 that was extended this week till September 7. That FIR alleges that he hurt religious sentiments by calling three right-wing religious leaders “hate mongers” after the latter made comments against or threatening other religious communities. On July 11, he was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a court in Lakhimpur Kheri in a similar case.

Zubair’s petition in the Supreme Court called his continued arrest “illegal and arbitrary” and a violation of his fundamental rights under Article 14 (right to equality), Article 19(1)(a) (right to freedom of expression), Article 19(1)(g) (right to practice trade or profession) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty).

The present petition, Zubair said, seeks immediate and urgent relief including quashing of the multiple untenable FIRs malafidely lodged against him, or in the alternative, clubbing of the multiple FIRs dealing with tweets as the subject matter of investigation. The petition also seeks to protect Zubair’s liberty and to prevent ever-greening of his detention in custody, in a manner that mutates the statutory and constitutional framework of laws into an instrument of harassment and oppression.

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