Patiala House Court, Delhi: Devender Kumar Jangala, J. granted bail to Alt News Co-founder for tweeting the image of a scene in the movie ‘Kisi se na Kehna’ which allegedly hurt religious sentiments and disrespected Lord Hanuman. The bail was granted as the investigation is not pending and thus, custody of the accused contains no merit as bail is the norm and jail is the exception.
A twitter user tagged Delhi Police under a tweet tweeted in the year 2018 by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair wherein the image of a scene in the movie released in year 1983 for ‘unrestricted public exhibition’ by Central Board of Film Certification named ‘Kisi se na Kehna’ was posted along with “Before and After 2014” being written which allegedly pointed towards a political party, because of which the sentiments got hurt. Pursuant to which FIR was filed under Sections 153-A and 295-A Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and arrest was made. Thus, instant bail application was filed for releasing the accused on bail.
The Court noted that till date the investigating officer has been unable to trace the twitter handle user who registered his disappointment regarding the alleged tweet and thus, statement under Section 161 CrPC has not been recorded either by the offended twitter user. It is also pertinent to mention that alleged offensive tweet being of the year 2018, till date, year being 2022, no other complaint of like nature has been received.
Reliance was placed on Bilal Ahmed v. State of AP, (1997) 7 SCC 431 to emphasize the importance of mens rea for the category of offence alleged in the present case and Amish Devgan v. Union of India, (2021) 1 SCC 1 to observe that the import of Section 295A IPC is to curb speech made with ‘malicious intent‘ and not ‘offensive speech‘.
Thus, keeping in mind that the investigation will happen in accordance with principles laid down in CrPC, the Court noted that all the evidence is documentary in nature and the applicant/accused has already been taken into custody thus recovery has been effected and no useful purpose will be met by keeping the accused behind bars.
In light of principle that bail is the rule and jail is the exception, the Court granted bail to the accused on furnishing bail bond of Rs 50, 000 with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate subject to following conditions:
- Applicant shall furnish to the Investigating Officer SHO, a cell phone number on which the applicant may be contacted at any time and shall ensure that the number is kept active and switched on at all times.
- Applicant shall not tamper with evidence nor otherwise indulge in any or omission that is unlawful or that would prejudice the proceedings in the pending matter.
- Applicant shall not leave the country without prior permission of the Court and will surrender his passport with the Investigating Agency within 3 days of his release from bail.
- Applicant/ accused shall not repeat the offence and shall ensure that his tweet or re-tweet or any material on social media is not even touching boundaries of the offence punishable under Section 153 A and 295 A IPC.
- Applicant/accused will join the investigation as and when called by the SHO/IO to do so.
[State v. Mohammed Zubair, Bail Application 1228 of 2022, decided on 15-07-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For applicant/ accused- Ms Vrinda Grover, Mr Soutik Banerjee, Ms Mannat Tipnis and Ms. Devika Tulsiani
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.