UP govt wanted Zubair to be stopped from tweeting, SC denies request
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of Alt News Co-founder Mohammad Zubair on interim bail in all the FIRs lodged in Uttar Pradesh against him and transferred all cases to Delhi police for alleged hate speech, saying “exercise of the power of arrest must be pursued sparingly”. The court said, “it finds no reason or justification for the deprivation of his liberty to persist any further” and ordered disbanding of the SIT, constituted by the UP police.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and A S Bopanna also refused to restrain Zubair from tweeting in the future as sought by the UP government, saying can a lawyer be restrained from arguing. “How can a journalist be restrained from tweeting and writing? If he violates any law by tweeting or for that matter any citizen speaking in public or private, then he can be proceeded as per the law”, the bench said ordering Zubair’s release by Wednesday 6 pm itself.
“It is a settled principle of law, that the existence of the power of arrest must be distinguished from the exercise of arrest and the exercise of the power of arrest must be pursued sparingly,” said the apex court. The court said the directions for the transfer of investigations of the FIRs which have been registered in Uttar Pradesh to the special cell of Delhi Police shall apply to all the existing FIRs forming the subject matter of the tweets as noted earlier and to any future FIR to be registered against him under the same subject matter.
Fairness to Zubair would require that the entirety of the investigation into all the FIRs be clubbed together and should be handled by one and the same investigating authority, it added. The apex court said the overlap between the allegations in the FIRs, emanating as they do, from the tweets of the petitioner (Zubair) would only go to emphasize the need for a consolidated as opposed to a piecemeal investigation by a diverse set of law enforcement agencies. It said that essentially, the gravamen of allegations against the petitioner pertains to tweets that have been put out by him.
“Having found from the record that the petitioner has been subjected to a fairly sustained investigation by the Delhi police, we find no reason or justification for the deprivation of the liberty of the petitioner to persist any further. Consequently, we are of the view that the petitioner shall be released on interim bail in each of the FIRs which form the subject matter of these proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution”, it said.
The top court, which did not upload the detailed order on its website but the operating part only said that it would take some time to transcribe the detailed judgment and directed that Zubair will be released on interim bail in all the FIRs lodged in UP after depositing a bail bond of Rs.20,000 with Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Patiala House Court here.
“Immediately upon the presentation of the bail bonds, the Superintendent at the Tihar Jail shall take necessary steps to ensure that the petitioner is released from judicial custody no later than by 6 pm today”, said the bench.
“All the FIRs which have been registered against the petitioner including the six FIRs which have been noted arising out of his tweets should be transferred for investigations to the special cell of the Delhi police,” said the Court which directed that the SIT which has been constituted by the UP police shall be rendered “redundant and shall be disbanded”.
It added that while the court is inclined to direct the transfer of investigation of the FIRs which have been registered in Uttar Pradesh to the special cell of Delhi police, “we reserve liberty to the petitioner to take recourse to the remedy under Section 482 of CrPC in the event he is advised to seek the quashing of FIR before the Delhi High Court.” All proceedings in connection with the FIRs shall lie before the Delhi High Court for such remedies as are available under law, it added.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi police on June 27 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets. Multiple FIRs were lodged against him in UP — two in Hathras and one each in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, and at Chandauli police station for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
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