Zubair's bail plea: Cop admits he informed media incorrectly; defence lawyer says "scandalous"
New Delhi, Jul 2: The Delhi police had egg on its face on Saturday after a senior officer KPS Malhotra was forced to admit he had incorrectly informed the media that fact-checking website AltNews' co-founder Mohammed Zubair was sent to 14-day judicial custody after the lawyer of the journalist emphatically said the judge hearing his bail plea has not given any order.
The case in which Zubair is an accused is related to an alleged objectionable tweet he had posted in 2018 against a Hindu deity. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria had reserved the order earlier in the day after the hearing in the case in which the Delhi police said Zubair should be sent to 14-day judicial custody on the expiry of his five-day police remand on Saturday.
The lawyer for the journalist expressed shock over "leak" of news of the rejection of his bail plea when the court was yet to pronounce its order. "I am shocked to see that DCP KPS Malhotra has leaked in the media ki 'hamara bail reject ho gaya hai. Aur 14 din ka JC grant hui hai' (that my bail plea has been rejected and my judicial custody has been granted for 14 days). I have learnt this from the twitter posts of news channels and some law reporters. They all cited KPS Malhotra as source," Soutik Banerjee told reporters outside the courtroom here.
"It is extremely scandalous and it speaks of the status of rule of law in our country today. That even before the judicial magistrate has sat and pronounced the order, the police have leaked the order to the media. How KPS Malhotra knows what the order is. This calls for serious, serious introspection," he added. Shortly after Banerjee's remarks triggered an online furore, Malhotra admitted to informing reporters incorrectly about Zubair's judicial custody.
"I had a word with my IO (investigating officer), I misheard it due to noise and inadvertently the message was posted in the broadcast," he said in a WhatsApp message to reporters.
The police had produced Zubair before the court on expiry of his five-day custodial interrogation and urged it to send him to 14-day judicial remand, saying they might need his custodial interrogation later.
After the police application, Zubair had moved a bail plea before the court. During the hearing, public prosecutor Atul Srivastava informed the court that the police has invoked new provisions -- sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code and section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act -- against Zubair. He claimed that the accused accepted money through Razorpay payment gateway from Pakistan, Syria and other countries, which requires further investigation. PTI