Criminal justice system ‘continuously working’ against Mohammad Zubair: SC


New Delhi, July 25

The arrest should not be meant to be used as a “punitive tool”, but the criminal justice system was “continuously functioning” against Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair, the Supreme Court said while granting him interim bail in connection with the FIR. A case has been registered against him in Uttar Pradesh for alleged hate speech.

The top court refused to accept the plea of ​​a lawyer representing Uttar Pradesh that Zubair should be barred from tweeting while he is on bail, saying the gag’s orders have a “cold effect” on freedom of expression. .

In its July 20 judgment, which was uploaded on the apex court’s website on Monday evening, a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said that despite the fact that the same tweet allegedly contained similar offenses in the FIR, gave birth to, Zubair was subjected to several investigations. Country.

“As is evident from the facts mentioned above, the machinery of criminal justice has been continuously employed against the petitioner (Zubair),” said the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna.

“As a result, he is caught in the vicious circle of criminal procedure, where the process itself has become the punishment,” the bench said in the 21-page judgement.

The apex court had delivered its verdict on Zubair’s plea seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh.

The top court had ordered Zubair to be released on interim bail in connection with the FIR registered against him in Uttar Pradesh for alleged hate speech and transferred the cases to the Special Cell of Delhi Police.

In its judgment, the top court said that police officers have been vested with the power to arrest persons at various stages of the criminal justice process, including during the course of investigation, but this power is not “unbridled”.

“Arrest should not be meant as a punitive tool and should not be used because it results in one of the most serious potential consequences arising from criminal law: the loss of personal liberty. Should not be punished without a fair trial.

It said the criminal law and its procedures should not be castigated as “tools of coercion”.

On the submission of UP counsel that Zubair should be restrained from tweeting when he is on bail, the bench said that merely because the complaints filed against him stem from the posts made by him on social media platforms, a The blanket advance order prevents them from being able to tweet.

“A comprehensive order directing the petitioner not to express his opinion—an opinion that he is entitled to a right as an actively participating citizen—would be inconsistent with the purpose of imposing conditions on bail. Such condition The imposition would amount to a gag order against the petitioner.”

“The shutdown orders have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression,” the bench said.

It noted that according to Zubair, he is a journalist who co-founded a fact checking website and uses Twitter as a medium of communication to dispel false news and misinformation “distorted in this era”. images, clickbait and tailored video”.

The apex court said that passing an order prohibiting the petitioner from posting on social media would be an unwarranted violation of freedom of speech and expression and freedom to practice his profession.

“The conditions of bail imposed by the court should not only be concerned with the purpose which they seek to fulfill, but should also be proportional to the purpose of implementing them. While imposing bail conditions, courts must balance the independence of the accused and the need for a fair trial. While doing so, the conditions which would result in infringement of rights and liberties should be waived,” the bench said.

On the issue of power of arrest, the apex court referred to its Arnesh Kumar judgment and observed that when it is exercised without application of mind and without taking into account the law, it amounts to abuse of power.

“Section 41 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) as well as safeguards in criminal law exist in recognition of the fact that any criminal proceeding involves almost essentially the power of the State, with unlimited resources at its disposal, let alone against the person,” it said.

The bench said Zubair had to face multiple investigations across the country, despite the fact that the same tweet allegedly gave rise to similar offenses in different FIRs.

“As a result, he will be required to depute multiple advocates to the districts, file multiple applications for bail, travel to several districts spread over two states for the purposes of investigation and defend himself before several courts, all at the same time. With respect to the alleged cause. Activity. As a result, he gets caught in a vicious cycle of criminal process, where the process itself has become the punishment.”

The bench said that it also appears that some inactive FIRs were activated from 2021 onwards as some fresh FIRs were registered, adding to the difficulties faced by Zubair.

The top court also dissolved the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Uttar Pradesh Police to probe the FIR.

Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 for hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets.

Several FIRs were registered against him in UP- two in Hathras and one each in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad and Chandauli police station for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.