‘Govt Showed Unusual Hurry In Forming SIT To Probe Zubair Case’

Nutan Thakur, a lawyer in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, feels Yogi Government action in AltNews case smacks of unethical bias

I have been following the cases registered against AltNews co-founder Mohammad Zubair in Uttar Pradesh under various Sections of IPC. In all, there are six first information reports (FIRs) filed against the fact-checker Mohammad Zubair.

These FIRs mainly pertain to making alleged sarcastic comments against a news channel anchor, hurting sentiments of Hindu community, making objectionable comments on religious deities, uploading provocative posts etc. in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar and Hathras districts of the state. Each case is being handled by a separate Investigating Officer (IO).

One fine day, out of the blue, the Uttar Pradesh government orders setting up a special investigation team (SIT) headed by an IPS officer to oversee the bunch of cases. As the proceedings go, all the IOs will now need to submit their findings or evidence to the SIT head.

There are separate provisions in the CRPC and a proper channel for the formation of an SIT but the “unnecessary haste” shown in the Mohammad Zubair case apparently reflects a political bias.

As far as I can make out, none of the charges is as complicated that an Inspector or a Sub-Inspector rank officer in a station (where the FIR is registered) cannot investigate and submit a charge sheet.

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And contrary to the official claim, I am sure this will not only slow down the investigation but also affect the morale of ground-level investigation officers. For, this (formation of SIT) is also, in a way, about questioning their ability.

It has been about a week since the formation of the SIT, but nothing new has come out yet. As far as the process goes, team members are selected for the SIT after which it begins it probe. So, if you see, this could also be a ploy to further delay the investigations and keep the case in suspension. Such delay tactics are often used to keep an accused in custody and deny him bail from a court of law.

Zubair claims himself to be a fact-checker and none of the cases against him (in UP) are related to his ‘vocation’. I have not gone through his ‘findings’ but if his ‘acts’ have come to such a level that he has been booked for other offenses, his primary ‘occupation’ is also a matter of investigation.

But here, the purpose of registering criminal cases against Zubair seems dubious. It is more like to teach him a lesson for standing up against a particular ideology. Such retributive actions only reflect the ‘anxiety’ of the Uttar Pradesh government to prove its muscle power in silencing the critics.

As told to Rajat Rai

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