Delhi Police top cop says fact-checker Mohd Zubair denied bail before court ruling; sparks controversy
New Delhi: A major controversy erupted after a top Delhi Police cop told journalists that the bail plea of fact-checker Mohammed Zubair has been rejected ahead of the court's pronouncement of an order in the case.
“It is extremely scandalous and speaks volumes of rule of law in the country that even before the judge has sat, police has leaked to media,” Zubair's lawyer, said Soutik Banerjee, according to an NDTV report.
Zubair, a co-founder of fact-checking site ALT News, was arrested over a four-year-old tweet.
He was produced in Delhi's Patiala House Court where appealed for bail.
The arguments in the case were completed and the judge was yet to give any order.
But KPS Malhotra, DCP of the cybercrime unit, sent a message to journalists that bail has been denied and Zubair has been sent to judicial custody for 14 days. Later, he said that he had misheard a colleague, said the report.
"How KPS Malhotra knows what the order is, is beyond me. This calls for introspection," Zubair's lawyer said, reported NDTV.
Mohammed Zubair was arrested by Delhi Police on June 27. He was, at first, sent to one-day police custody by a duty magistrate on the same day.
This came just a month after he highlighted a video of suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma's remarks against Prophet Mohammed on a TV show.
During the court hearing, police told the court that they have charged Zubair, who has been accused of hurting religious sentiments, with criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence, and sections of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or FCRA, the NDTV report said.
A criminal conspiracy charge opens the way for the ED to initiate a money-laundering probe against him.
In March 2018, Zubair had shared a meme that used a screengrab from Hrishikesh Mukherjee's classic 'Kissi Se Na Kehna', showing a hotel signboard that read 'Hanuman Hotel' in Hindi, but paint marks indicated it was earlier named 'Honeymoon Hotel'.
Zubair captioned the image: "Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel, After 2014: Hanuman Hotel", in an apparent dig at the BJP forming the government in 2014.
"Many have tweeted the same, the only difference between those handles and mine is my faith, my name, and my profession," he had told the court at the previous hearing through his lawyer Vrinda Grover.