Fact-checker Mohammed Zubair was released from jail on Wednesday night, 23 days after he was arrested over what the police said was a "highly provocative tweet". The Supreme Court granted him bail in all the cases against him in Uttar Pradesh. Shortly after his release, his business partner and co-founder of Alt News, Pratik Sinha, said Mohammed Zubair will "be back real soon".
"Zubair wants to convey his heartfelt gratitude to everyone who stood by us and supported us in the last few weeks. He'll be back real soon," Mr Sinha tweeted, sharing a photo with Mr Zubair.
Zubair wants to convey his heartfelt gratitude to everyone who stood by us and supported us in the last few weeks. He'll be back real soon. pic.twitter.com/PkyYOnEewh— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) July 20, 2022
Mr Zubair left Delhi's Tihar jail at 9 pm and got into a waiting car outside the jail. Asked by reporters to say something, he flashed a victory sign.
Mohammed Zubair was arrested on June 27 by Delhi Police. Seven more FIRs were filed against him in Uttar Pradesh.
While granting him interim bail, the Supreme Court said that there was "no justification to keep him in continued detention and subject him to an endless round of proceedings in various courts".
The court disbanded a special probe in UP against Mohammed Zubair and transferred all UP cases to Delhi. The judges also rejected the Uttar Pradesh government's request that Mohammed Zubair be "stopped from putting out tweets".
"It's like telling a lawyer to not argue any further. How can you tell a journalist he cannot write? If he does something that violates the law, then he is answerable to law. But how can we take anticipatory action against a citizen when he is raising his voice? Every citizen is answerable for what he does in public or private. We will not place any such order," said Justice DY Chandrachud.
The Supreme Court did not cancel the FIRs (First Information Report) but said he was free to approach the Delhi High Court against all the cases, which can be combined into one.
The co-founder of fact-check website Alt News was arrested over a four-year-old tweet sharing a screenshot from a popular Hindi movie.
Just days before the arrest, he had drawn attention to an incendiary comment on Prophet Muhammad by suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma during a TV debate.
As he moved for bail, case after case was filed in UP.
Three cases were filed in Lakhimpur Kheri, Hathras and Sitapur over a tweet in which he called some right wing leaders "hate mongers".