The Delhi Police Cyber Cell and the Raipur Police have filed FIRs under sections of the IT Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act against Fact Checking Website Alt News Co-Founder Mohammed Zubair and couple of others. The complaints were received from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) over allegedly “threatening and torturing a girl child through Twitter”.
Zubair who runs his twitter handle @zoo_bear has nearly 150k followers. The other two handles are @de_real_mask and @syedsarwar20. As reported by The Indian Express, DCP (Cyber Crime, Delhi) Anyesh Roy and Raipur SP Ajay Yadav confirmed that FIRs had been filed.
On August 6, Zubair shared a tweet which had the photo of a minor girl, with her face blurred out, during an online spat he was having with her grandfather. The other two handles had commented on the post, said a Raipur police officer. While one has been deleted, the other is anonymous.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo told IE,
NCPCR took cognizance of the post on August 8 and initiated an inquiry, in which we asked Twitter to provide relevant information. Dissatisfied with their response, we summoned Twitter and their representatives appeared before the Commission on Friday.
We also wrote to police authorities, and according to the action taken report, FIR has been lodged against alleged persons for threatening and torturing a girl child on Twitter.
Kanoongo added that as per Twitter’s request,
An additional time of 10 days has been provided to them to provide relevant information.
— प्रियंक कानूनगो Priyank Kanoongo (@KanoongoPriyank) September 5, 2020
Raipur SP Yadav said the FIR was lodged after the complainant and NCRB sent separate letters. He said:
We investigated the matter and prima facie there are some comments that are classified as harassment. We have registered the FIR against the three Twitter handles but investigation work is still going on.
A Raipur police officer said:
The FIR has been filed under section 509 B (sexual harassment by electronic mode) of the IPC, section 12 (punishment for committing sexual harassment upon a child) of POCSO Act, and section 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act.
Zubair in his response informed media,
This is an absolutely frivolous complaint. I will be responding to it legally.
On Sunday, Alt News Co-Founder Pratik Sinha, put out an official statement from the portal stating,
Alt News stands with Mohammed Zubair.
The statement read that the charges on Zubair were an attempt to hound him through legal apparatus.
Alt News is one of the leading fact check portals in India, however, they have been often criticised of being anti-establishment and busting only one sided false stories.
Update As On October 5, 2020
Bilaspur High Court has ordered that no coercive action should be taken against Zubair. Next hearing in November. Delhi High Court had issued a similar order last month. Two FIRs were filed against him, one in Raipur, one in Delhi.