Singh who complained against Alt News has vulgar Twitter content

New Delhi: The Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell has registered an FIR against AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair allegedly for”threatening and torturing a girl child through Twitter”, officials said on Sunday.

The FIR was registered against Zubair under provisions of the Information Technology Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) on a complaint received from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a senior police officer said.

It all started on August 6 when Singh, 42, came across a tweet by Mohammad Zubair, a fact-checker and the co-founder of Alt News. Zubair had tweeted a fact-check to a tweet by a police officer, under which Singh wrote: “Lavde ka fact-checker”.

Zubair then tweeted Singh’s Twitter profile picture at the time which showed him standing next to his 10-year-old daughter. “Hello Jagdish Singh, does your cute granddaughter know about your part time job of abusing people on social media?” Zubair wrote. “I suggest you to change your profile pic.”

Alt News denounces FIR’s

Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha took to Twitter to denounce the FIRs as a bid to “hound” his colleague “through misuse of legal apparatus”.

“Zubair has been in the forefront of fighting fake narratives, and his work hurts those who have weaponized misinformation to subvert the Indian democracy,” Alt News said in a statement on Twitter.

“This person (Singh) has a history of abusing Zubair,” Sinha told Newslaundry. “He has called him a ‘jihadi’ and all sort of things in the past.” Sinha is right. A Twitter search does reveal jabs that Singh has taken at Zubair.

In a tweet addressed to NCPCR chief Priyank Kanoongo on September 7, Sinha posted a few more tweets by Singh, where he made creepy remarks on activist Shehla Rashid and actor-turned-politician Divya Spandana. “Here’s a preview into the vulgar mindset of this person. Is the establishment a voice for such people now?” Sinha asked.

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NCPCR files complaint

Though Zubair pixelated the minor’s face, he now faces two FIRs for allegedly “torturing” and “threatening” her on Twitter. Those are the words used in the complaint submitted to the police by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

The NCPCR, in the complaint, said the commission took cognizance of complaint received under section 13 (1) ) and (k) of CPCR Act, 2005, as in the complaint the picture of a minor girl is seen to be circulated and posted by various Twitter handles with indecent and disgraceful remarks/comments, which seems to be a cognizable offence and requires immediate registration of an FIR.

“You look into the matter and take prompt action in respect to the Twitter handle and posts harassing, threatening and stalking the minor girl. Further, you were also requested to ensure safety of girl child and initiate appropriate action against the alleged perpetrators,” NCPCR chief Priyank Kanoongo said in his letter.

Kanoongo said he is seeking action under POCSO/relevant acts against “online threats and repeated incident of stalking of a minor girl on Twitter by Zubair”.

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“As per the complaint, Mohammed Zubair bearing Twitter handle zoo online harassing, threatening and stalking a minor girl,” he said.

He has also written to Twitter India to take action into the matter.

On Saturday, the NCPCR chief had tweeted, “According to the ATR received in @NCPCR_ ,an FIR has been lodged against the alleged persons for threatening and torturing a girl child on @Twitter. As per the request made by @TwitterIndia an additional time of 10 days has been provided to them to provide relevant information.”

Alt News has faced legal notices for defamation before, but this is the first time that an employee has been named in an FIR. Sinha said his colleague had not been handed a copy of the FIR by the Delhi police, strengthening his belief that the entire case was “one-sided” and that the state wants to “fix” Zubair, The Newslaundry reported.

“The NCPCR did not once contact Zubair for his side. His lawyers wrote to them in August saying that Zubair had not received a showcause notice before the FIR was filed. The legal representative at NCPCR said that as of September, they had only summoned a representative from Twitter. They said they would summon Zubair when they had to, and yet, without that, they publicised the FIR.”

The Newslaundry also brought into notice that in the past month alone, three minors have been raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri. In June, seven girls in a shelter home in Kanpur were found pregnant – a story that died quickly. But thanks to the NCPCR’s resolve, we will now have an investigation into a dubious complaint by a seasoned Twitter troll. The accused here is a journalist who has consistently busted misinformation emanating from the Modi regime and its supporters. The NCPCR’s concerns about child rights, thus, seem to be an innocent cover for designs that seem more sinister.

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