Top court grants bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair and said 'Power of arrest should be used sparingly'

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted interim bail to Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair all told the six FIRs lodged against him in Uttar Pradesh and said the facility of arrest should be used sparingly.

The top court also ordered Zubair's immediate release and glued 6pm deadline for Tihar Jail superintendent to line him free after the presentation of recognizance of Rs 20,000.

The SC bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said there was absolutely no justification to keep Zubair in custody when the Delhi court has granted him bail in an FIR registered by a special cell of Delhi police. The special cell is investigating an entire gamut of tweets and funding by Zubair.

"Existence of power of arrest must be distinguished from power of arrest, which should be pursued sparingly," the court said.

The apex court disbanded the Special Investigation Team founded by UP police to probe his tweets and also clubbed all the FIRs against him. It transferred the Muzaffarnagar case, within which chargesheet has been filed, to Patiala House court in Delhi. 

The overlapping of FIRs, emanating from the tweets, requires consolidation of FIRs instead of piecemeal investigation by diverse police authorities, the apex court said and asked the Delhi Police to conduct a comprehensive probe. 

Relief all told future FIRs

The top court relief to Zubair also will be applicable to any or all FIRs that may be registered in future on the identical subject material in relevance the tweets put out by him. this implies all future FIRs anywhere within the country would be automatically transferred to the Delhi Police. 

'It is like asking a lawyer to not argue'

When the UP govt counsel asked the court to restrain Zubair from posting offensive tweets, the SC said this is often like asking a lawyer to not argue. "How can the court restrain a journalist from tweeting? If he violates law by tweeting something, then he are answerable," the SC said.

During the hearing, senior advocate Garima Prasad, representing the UP government, argued that Zubair gets acquired the tweets and also the more malicious the tweets, the more payment he gets. The counsel added that Zubair had got near Rs 2 crore and he's not a journalist. 

Zubair's counsel advocate Vrinda Grover called the cases an orchestrated investigation for stifling dissent. 

A total of seven FIRs are registered in UP against Zubair - two in Hathras and one each in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, and at Chandauli station.