The Delhi Police told the high court on Thursday that it has not found any criminality against fact-checking website Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair in a case lodged against him for allegedly threatening and torturing a minor on social media.
Court asks police to place chargesheet before it
Taking note of the submissions of the city police, the court asked the probe agency to place the chargesheet filed in the case before it.
"Before proceeding further, let a copy of the chargesheet be filed before the next date of hearing," Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said.
The counsel for the Delhi Police informed the court that the probe agency has found no criminality against Zubair and his name has not been included in the chargesheet.
The court also asked police to give a copy of the chargesheet to Additional Solicitor General K M Natraj, who is representing complainant National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in the matter.
The law officer said he would take further instructions, after which the court listed the matter for the next hearing on March 2.
Delhi Police had lodged FIR on complaint of NCPCR
On the basis of a complaint from the NCPCR, the Delhi Police lodged an FIR against Zubair on August 9, 2020 under the provisions of the Information Technology Act for allegedly threatening and torturing a girl on Twitter.
The NCPCR complaint referred to a photo of the girl and her father shared by Zubair on Twitter during an online spat with the man.
The journalist has approached the court seeking quashing of the FIR against him.
The NCPCR has contended that the submission of the city police that no cognisable offence was made out against Zubair was "incorrect" and that the agency's stand indicates the casual attitude of the authorities.
It had urged the court to direct the Delhi Police to conduct a thorough investigation in the case and conclude it on priority basis.
'Retweeting girl's picture is disclosure of her identity': NCPCR
The NCPCR has said re-tweeting of the girl's picture contributed to the disclosure of her identity through her father, seriously jeopardised her safety and security and also exposed her to harassment on social media platforms like Twitter where lewd and disgraceful comments were published about her by the users.
"The comments made on the picture of the minor girl also included comments which were in the nature of sexual harassment and were seen to be in violation of the provisions of the POCSO Act, IPC and IT Act," it said.
The commission also said even after knowing the fact that several comments were being made on his post against the girl, which were indecent and sexual in nature, Zubair neither tried to delete the tweet nor informed the authorities concerned about the users who had indulged in violating the girl's rights.
Delhi HC had directed police not to take coercive action
The high court had, in September 2020, directed the Delhi Police not to take any coercive steps against Zubair in the case. It had also directed Twitter India to cooperate with police in the investigation.
Zubair had refuted the allegation levelled against him in the FIR by describing it as "an absolutely frivolous complaint".
His counsel had earlier submitted that Zubair was being trolled for his posts on Twitter by a man who abused and demeaned him and even left communally-charged comments on the scribe's page on the microblogging website.
Subsequently, Zubair posted the display picture of the man standing with his minor daughter, whose face was cautiously blurred by the petitioner, and posted a tweet. After this, a complaint was made against him to the NCPCR and an FIR lodged.
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