NEW DELHI: During the hearing on Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair‘s bail plea on Saturday, the police told the court they have added three graver sections against him in the FIR. They alleged that Zubair had received payments through Razorpay in violation of FCRA from Pakistan, Syria, UAE, Australia, Singapore and Riyaadh.
“From the analysis of the reply received from the Razorpay Payment gateway on the account of Pravda Media, it has been revealed that there were various transactions using mobile numbers and IP addresses from foreign countries,” the prosecution claimed.
Special public prosecutor Atul Srivastava said the investigation was underway and the police may again seek his custody.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Zubair, claimed the donations were received by Pravda Media, parent company of Alt News, and not by the accused. “Pravda is a section 8 company. I did not receive any such funds directly into my account…See if there is one financial transaction of a foreign company. Has anybody asked me about it? This power is not given to (police to) mislead the court… All transactions are proved. These are financial transactions. A company taking funds is not a violation of FCRA. You (police) have not issued notice to Pravda. You said the journalist took (funds) and then said Pravda. Facts have been muddled up. This is why we need a fact checker in this country,” Grover argued.
The public prosecutor rebutted her claim saying Zubair was the director of the company.
The police had also claimed that Zubair had not produced the mobile phone with which he had tweeted back in 2018. In response, his counsel said the phone had been snatched by some bikers and the complaint made to the police in this regard had been put on record. However, the court said nothing was put on record to show that the earlier phone was lost.
On Zubair’s contention that the offences were not made out since the tweet in question was the still image from a Hindi film, the court said this was of no assistance to the accused as sections under FCRA Act had been added.
Zubair was produced before the court around 10.30am on expiry of his police custody. The police did not seek extension of his remand and moved an application for Zubair to be sent to judicial custody for 14 days. His counsel then moved an application seeking bail. After hearing arguments till 1 pm, the court reserved the order.
The public prosecutor added that section 201 of IPC has been invoked as a call detail record (CDR) analysis has revealed that Zubair was using a Redmi Note 8 mobile phone before June 25.
“He was served a notice to join the investigation (in another case) on June 24. He deliberately changed his mobile phone and deleted data from the previous one. The phone he gave to the police was blank,” he said.
To this, Grover said Zubair could do whatever he wanted with his phone since it was private property and asked if it was a crime to carry multiple mobile phones? She alleged it was a “fishing and roving inquiry”.
Opposing the police’s seizure of Zubair’s laptop, Grover said the data’s integrity and sanctity have to be preserved but there is apprehension that it can be manipulated.
“No hash value has been created of his mobile phone till date. There is a real apprehension of tampering and manipulation which will take me to the new sections added against me,” she claimed.
“We are not living in a police state. If they can demonstrate that an offence is made out against me, I will give them my laptop. It cannot be that first you give me your laptop and then you will demonstrate the evidence,” she said.
She also asserted that no religious feelings had been hurt by the tweet. “This Twitter handle (Hanuman Bhakt) pulls out this tweet for what purpose? He says his religious sentiments are hurt, but this is not ‘Indian Hurt Sentiment Code’. This is the Indian Penal Code,” she said, adding that the section of criminal conspiracy was not made out in the matter.
“Who am I (Zubair) in conspiracy with? It cannot be that I am in conspiracy with myself. They have not arrested any other person in the matter,” the counsel pointed out.