Bombay High Court grants 4 weeks transit anticipatory bail to journalist Rana Ayyub in UP Police FIR over her tweet

The Bombay High Court on Monday granted 4 weeks transit anticipatory bail to journalist Rana Ayyub in the FIR registered by the Uttar Pradesh police over her tweet on the Ghaziabad incident relating to the assault of an elderly Muslim man.

The bench of Justice P.D. Naik ordered that protection could be granted to Rana Ayyub so that the journalist is able to approach the court to seek relief.

In the event of arrest during the period of four weeks, the applicant be released on executing a PR Bond of 25,000 with one or more sureties", the bench ordered.

Senior Advocate Mihir Desai, who appeared for Ayyub, told the bench that she was a globally renowned journalist who has won several awards for her work and contended that she had only made a tweet based on news reports about the incident of the Muslim man being attacked.

When conflicting versions emerged about the incident, Desai said, Ayyub deleted the tweet. He also pointed out that all offences mentioned in the FIR are punishable with less than 3 years jail. The bench observed that since the applicant was only seeking protection to approach the jurisdictional court, adjudication of the application on merits was unnecessary.

Ayyub approached the court on June 18, two days after the UP police registered an FIR against her and eight others, including Twitter under sections 153 (provoking to cause riots), 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups), 295A (insulting religious beliefs), 505 (statements inducing public mischief) & 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

The other accused in the FIR are news website The Wire along with Alt news co-founder Mohammed Zubair, Congress politicians Shama Mohamed, Salman Nizami and Maskoor Usmani.

The UP police had also named Twitter in the FIR as it failed to take down the tweets and allegedly allowed the video to go viral. The FIR was registered in the backdrop of an elderly Muslim man's claim in a video that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant Vande Mataram and Jai Shri Ram.

However, later on, the Uttar Pradesh Police ruled out any "communal angle" and said that Sufi Abdul Samad, the elderly man, was attacked by six men, as they were unhappy over the tabeez (amulets) he had sold them.

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The FIR alleges that the accused circulated the video of the incident on their Twitter handles without checking the authenticity of the video. The FIR also alleged that the accused have shared this video to give a communal angle to the incident with the intention to incite communal hatred between the religious communities and wanted to disturb the public order.

The FIR also states that the views expressed while sharing the videos weren't individual opinions, rather they were shared with a clear intention, and the sharing of the video indicates a criminal conspiracy. And they intended to incite communal hatred between the Hindu and Muslim communities.