Supreme Court on the case of fact checker M Zubair

After more than a month in prison, Muhammed Zubair was released on July 20. (Case)

New Delhi:

Fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, who was released on bail last week, has been “trapped in a vicious cycle of criminal procedure where the procedure itself has become the punishment”, the Supreme Court has said, warning that arrest “cannot be used as a punitive tool”. . The detailed judgment in the case which was made public today contained a series of extremely strong remarks. Muhammed Zubair was released last week after more than a month in jail, days after Chief Justice N. V. Ramana flagged the issue of “hasty and indiscriminate arrests, difficulty obtaining bail and prolonged incarceration of the defendants”.

“Arrest is not meant to be and should not be used as a punitive tool because it entails one of the most serious consequences possible emanating from criminal law: the loss of personal liberty,” reads the judgment of the bench of judges DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna today.

“Individuals should not be punished solely on the basis of allegations and without a fair trial… When the power of arrest is exercised without due application and without due regard to the law, it amounts to abuse power,” he added. added.

The court said that Article 41 of the CrPC and the safeguards of criminal law exist in recognition of the fact that all criminal proceedings “almost inevitably involve the power of the State, with unlimited resources at its disposal, against a single individual” .

The court had only issued the operative part of the order on July 20 to allow the early release of Mohammed Zubair, who had sought redress after cases against him spiked in several states, including Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. .

It all started with a four-year-old tweeting a screenshot of a popular Hindi movie. Later, complaints were filed for other complaints as well – including another tweet in which the fact checker on the Alt News website called some right-wing leaders “hate mongers”.

Days before the arrest, Mohammed Zubair drew attention to BJP’s Nupur Sharma’s comment on the Prophet Muhammad, sparking huge controversy and backlash.

On July 20, the high court granted him bail, dissolved a special investigation in the UP and transferred all UP cases to Delhi. The judges also rejected the Uttar Pradesh government’s request to “stop Mohammed Zubair from posting tweets”.

Regarding the latter, the court said: “The imposition of such a condition would amount to a gag order… (which) has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.”

“According to the petitioner, he is a journalist who co-founded a fact-checking website and he uses Twitter as a means of communication to dispel fake news and misinformation in an age of transformed images, clicks and personalized videos. An order restraining him from posting on social media would constitute an unwarranted violation of the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice one’s profession,” the court added.

Earlier this month, speaking at an event in Jaipur attended by Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, Chief Justice NV Ramana called India’s criminal justice system process a ‘punishment’ .

“In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty and indiscriminate arrests to the difficulty of obtaining bail, the process leading to the prolonged incarceration of those on trial requires urgent attention,” he said. , without citing any particular case.