Additional Sessions Judge Devendra Kumar Jangala of the Delhi District Court granted bail to AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair and said that “free speech is the proper foundation of a democratic society.”

Zubair was arrested on June 27, 2022 after an First Information report was registered against him by Delhi police on June 20 after a twitter user tagged Delhi police for a tweet Zubair had posted in 2018. Zubair’s tweet, which was a meme with a scene from a 1983 film titled “Kisi Se Na Kehna”, captioned ‘Before 2014 Honeymoon Hotel and After 2014 Hanuman Hotel.” A spate of FIRs were registered against him and in one, an FIR lodged in Sitapur Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly outraging religious sentiments, he was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court on July 9, 2022.

Among the bail conditions in the order, the judge directed him to ensure that his tweet or retweet on any material on social media does not touch the boundaries of offences punishable under sections 153 A (promoting disharmony, enmity or feelings of hatred between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language) or 295A (punishing of any deliberate and malicious acts that are intended to insult the region or religious beliefs of certain class of citizens) of the Indian Penal Code!

In his order, delivered today, July 15, 2022, the judge pointed out that ’till today during the investigation the police has fails to establish the identity of said twitter user who felt offended by the tweet of the accused. Police have not even recorded the statement of the “aggrieved person/witness” and failed to “record the statement under Section 161 CR. PC of any other person who has felt offended by the tweet of the accused.”

The order noted that the ‘alleged tweet of accused was made in the year 2018 but till date of registration of present FIR in 2022 no other complaint was received that tweet of accused is offensive to Hindu community or showing disrespect to Lord Hanumana.’ The image was from a film which was certified by the Central Board of Film Certification and till today, no complaint had been filed about the film hurting the feelings of any community.

Besides, the order also said, with reference to the portion of the tweet about a political party (Before 2014 and after 2014), that in a democracy, political parties are open for criticism. The voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy, the order said. With regard to the allegations of FCRA violations, the order said that all the evidence are documentary in nature. The applicant/accused has already been taken in police custody for five days and now lodged in judicial custody. Therefore, no further interrogation is required,”

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