Complaint against Alt News founder frivolous, says counsel; arrest barred till Dec 8

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The Delhi high court on Wednesday said no coercive action would be taken against Alt News founder Mohammad Zubair till December 8, while it heard a plea seeking quashing of an FIR registered against Zubair for allegedly threatening and torturing a girl child through Twitter.

Justice Yogesh Khanna also asked Delhi police to supply the copy of the FIR to Zubair and directed it to file a status report in the case, registered under provisions of the Information Technology Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) on a complaint received against Zubair from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

The NCPCR complaint refers to the photo of the girl and her grandfather, shared by Zubair on Twitter during an online spat with the minor’s father. Though the girl’s face was blurred out in the photo, she said she could get identified as her grandfather’s face was recognisable.

The NCPCR said it took cognisance of the complaint received under section 13 (1)) and (k) of CPCR Act, 2005, as a minor girl’s picture is seen to be circulated and posted by various Twitter handles with indecent and disgraceful remarks/comments, which seems to be a cognisable offence and requires immediate registration of an FIR.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Zubair, said that based on a frivolous grievance of the complainant and biased and prejudiced directions of the NCPCR, an FIR was registered against his client at Raipur, Chhattisgarh, under section 509, Information and Technology Act, 2000 and section 12 of the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

He said that Zubair is a dedicated citizen who, through his news outlet, debunks misinformation put out by individuals and by political parties without any bias. Due to the nature of his work, he is often abused, threatened and demeaned by people, who the website exposes or by their blind supporters.

Advocate Rahul Mehra, the standing counsel of the Delhi government (criminal) told the court that even though he does not have any instructions, it would not be a problem for the department to share the copy of the FIR. He said that generally the FIRs are uploaded online except for the heinous cases or those relating to POCSO.

 

“This is not a nuclear secret of the state which cannot be shared,” Mehra said, while stating that the investigation in the matter is on. He submitted that prima facie, the FIR has been registered on the basis of the complaint. He also said that the city police have written to Twitter India to gather credentials of a third person who had posted an objectionable comment on the tweet.

Following this, the court directed Twitter to extend its co-operation to the city police after Mehra sought that direction be issued to Twitter for expediting the information which otherwise takes a long time.

The court will now hear the matter on December 8.