Zubair's bail plea: Even before magistrate pronounced order, Delhi police leaked info to media
The Delhi Police were today (July 2, 2022) left red-faced when a senior officer KPS Malhotra was forced to admit that he had incorrectly informed the media that fact-checking website Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was sent to 14-day judicial custody.
Malhotra's admission came after Zubair's lawyer emphatically said the trial court magistrate hearing his client's bail plea has not given any order.
The case in which Zubair is an accused relates to an alleged objectionable tweet he had posted in 2018.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria earlier in the day reserved the order after the hearing on the bail plea during which the Delhi Police said Zubair should be sent to 14-day judicial custody on the expiry of his five-day police remand today.
Zubair's lawyer Soutik Banerjee expressed shock over the "leak" of news of the rejection of his bail plea even when the court was yet to pronounce its order, our New Delhi correspondent reports.
"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 the bail plea has been rejected and 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," Banerjee told reporters outside the courtroom.
"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 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 wanted that he be sent 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 have 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.