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Indian journalist Muhammad Zubair gets bail in 2018 tweet case

“The voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy," observes Delhi court

By Web Desk
July 16, 2022
Indian journalist Mohammad Zubair. Picture Twitter
Indian journalist Mohammad Zubair. Picture Twitter

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Friday granted interim bail to Muslim journalist Muhammed Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking site Alt News, in another case relating to one of his tweets in 2018, however, he will stay in jail over two more cases, NDTV reported.

The Muslim journalist was arrested by the New Delhi police on 27 June on the charges of hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets. Apart from the case in New Delhi, as many as six FIRs were lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Muhammad Zubair pleaded with the top court to quash the six other similar FIRs registered against him by the Uttar Pradesh Police.

The Indian journalist was granted interim bail against a surety bond worth INR50,000. However, he will not be able to leave the country without the permission of the court, said the court.

In its verdict, the court observed, “The voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy. Therefore, merely for the criticism of any political parties, it is not justified to invoke Section 153-A and 295-A [of the] IPC.”

The case

An Indian court, on July 5, gave police four days to question the prominent journalist over a 2018 tweet they described as “highly provocative”, in a case that has strained relations between the country’s majority Hindu population and largely Muslim minority.

Muhammed Zubair, a vocal critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested after an anonymous Twitter user lodged a complaint with authorities over the four-year-old post.

Earlier this month, Zubair, who is Muslim, drew attention to an incendiary remark about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made on TV by a spokesperson for Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

With about half a million followers on Twitter, Zubair’s tweet about the comments went viral. The BJP suspended the spokesperson for anti-Islam remarks and expelled another official in a bid to defuse domestic and international outrage.

Several Muslim countries with strategic interests in India lodged complaints and at least two people were killed during protests that erupted in several parts of India. More than 400 people were arrested. The BJP officials have not been arrested.