Delhi HC: No Coercive Action Shall be Taken Against Alt News Co-Founder Mohammed Zubair

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The order has come in a criminal writ petition moved by a fact-checking journalist Mohammed Zubair. The Petition seeks to quash the FIR lodged against him by a twitter user, Jagdish Singh.

Facts of the Case

The Petitioner herein Mohammed Zubair is a Journalist and Co-founder of India’s most-read fact-checking website news outlet ALT News. Due to the nature of his work, Mr. Zubair is often abused, threatened, and demeaned by people. The present case pertains to a tweet posted by Zubair. He shared the profile picture of Jagdish Singh which showed him standing with his minor grand-daughter (after blurring the face of the minor girl). And asked if it was appropriate for Singh to use derogatory language in replies while using a profile picture depicting his grand-daughter.

In light of this tweet, Jagdish Singh accused him of causing cyber sexual harassment of his grand-daughter. Jagdish Singh filed multiple FIRs against Zubair under section 509B of IPC, Sections 67 and 67A of the Information Technology Act.

Petitioner’s Argument

 Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appeared for the Petitioner. He argued that while retweeting Singh’s display picture, Zubair had blurred the image of the minor girl. Hence, no offense could be said to have been committed.

Mr. Gonsalves also informed the court that the Complainant is a “serial abuser” who targeted persons with liberal views on Twitter. He also contended that two FIRs on the same event cannot be permitted.

Respondent’s Argument

Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra appeared for the Delhi Police. He submitted that the investigation was going on. And certain information pertaining to a third person, who posted disgraceful comments on Zubair’s tweet, was awaited from Twitter. Mr. Mehra further submitted that as per his instructions, the image of the minor girl was not blurred.

Court’s Decision

A Single Bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna directed the Delhi Government and the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Cyber Cell to file a status report on the investigation carried out in this case, within 8 weeks. The court further granted Interim Relief from arrest to Mohammed Zubair.

The next hearing is on December 8.


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