HC tells Delhi Police to place on record chargesheet filed against journalist Zubair

Mohammed Zubair
Mohammed Zubair.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court asked the city police on Thursday to place on record the chargesheet filed in a case against fact-checking website Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair for allegedly threatening and torturing a minor on social media.

The counsel for the Delhi Police informed the court that the probe agency has found no criminality against Zubair and his name has not been included in the chargesheet.

"Before proceeding further, let a copy of the chargesheet be filed before the next date of hearing," Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said.

The court also asked police to give a copy of the chargesheet to Additional Solicitor General K M Natraj, who is representing complainant National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in the matter.

The law officer said he would take further instructions, after which the court listed the matter for further hearing on March 2.

On the basis of a complaint from the NCPCR, the Delhi Police lodged an FIR against Zubair on August 9 under the provisions of the Information Technology Act for allegedly threatening and torturing a girl on Twitter.

The NCPCR complaint referred to a photo of the girl and her father shared by Zubair on Twitter during an online spat with her father.

The journalist has approached the court seeking quashing of the FIR against him.

The NCPCR has contended that the submission of the city police that no cognisable offence was made out against Zubair was "incorrect" and that the agency's stand indicates the casual attitude of the authorities.

It had urged the court to direct the Delhi Police to conduct a thorough investigation in the case and conclude it on priority basis.

The NCPCR has said re-tweeting of the girl's picture contributed to the disclosure of her identity through her father, seriously jeopardised her safety and security and also exposed her to harassment on social media platforms like Twitter where lewd and disgraceful comments were published about her by the users.

"The comments made on the picture of the minor girl also included comments which were in the nature of sexual harassment and were seen to be in violation of the provisions of the POCSO Act, IPC and IT Act," it has said.

The commission has said even after knowing the fact that several comments were being made on his post against the girl, which were indecent and sexual in nature, Zubair neither tried to delete the tweet nor informed the authorities concerned about the users who had indulged in violating the girl's rights.

The high court had, in September 2020, directed the Delhi Police not to take any coercive steps against Zubair in the case. It had also directed Twitter India to cooperate with police in the investigation of the matter.

Zubair had refuted the allegation levelled against him in the FIR by describing it as "an absolutely frivolous complaint".

His counsel had earlier submitted that Zubair was being trolled for his posts on Twitter by a man who abused and demeaned him and even left communally-charged comments on the scribe's page on the microblogging website.

Subsequently, Zubair posted the display picture of a man standing with his minor daughter, whose face was cautiously blurred by the petitioner, and posted a tweet. After this, a complaint was made against him to the NCPCR and an FIR lodged.

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