A day after fact-checking website Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair was arrested, the Delhi Police said on Tuesday that his "objectionable tweet of 2018 led to a Twitter storm with hate speeches, detrimental to communal harmony".
"In such cases, finding the gadget used to post such tweets and the intention behind posting such a tweet is important. During questioning, he has been evasive on both the fronts.
"We found out that his phone was formatted. His evasiveness formed the grounds for his arrest," KPS Malhotra, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations) told PTI.
The police officer said a four-member police team will be sent to Zubair's house in Bengaluru on Wednesday to recover evidence, including the mobile phone or laptop used by him for posting the tweet in question.
The mobile phone that he is currently using is formatted and does not have information related to the case that is being investigated. However, the phone will be sent to forensic lab for examination, the officer said.
During investigation, when asked about his phone through which he posted the alleged tweet in 2018, he told police that he had lost it.
"He joined the probe but did not cooperate and various material from his phone was deleted," he added.
Asked about the objectional tweet, Zubair told the investigators that he did post the tweet but did not specify any reason for doing so, the officer said.
A Delhi court on Tuesday extended by four days the custodial interrogation of Zubair.
During the hearing, Zubair's counsel said that the photo which he had used in the tweet was from a Hindi film of 1983 by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, “Kissi Se Na Kehna”, and that the film was not banned.
The court, however, rejected the submission saying it was of no assistance to the accused at this stage.
Officials in the Delhi Police told PTI that the FIR was registered on June 20 against Zubair.
According to an emergency police officer on duty, "during social media monitoring, it came to notice that a Twitter handle namely Hanuman Bhakt @balajikijaiiin shared a tweet against another Twitter handle in the name of Mohammed Zubair@zoo_bear in which it has been tweeted by Zubair that 'Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel' and has shown a picture of a sign board of one hotel name "Honeymoon Hotel" changed to "Hanuman Hotel," the FIR read.
According to the first information report, Bhakt @balajikijaiiin tweeted that, "Linking our God Hanuman ji with Honey Moon is direct insult of Hindus because he is brahmchari. Kindly take action against this guy".
"These words and picture found to be used by Zubair against a particular religious community and are highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feeling of hatred amongst people which can be detrimental for maintenance of public tranquility in the society," the FIR stated.
It further stated that transmission and publication of such posts has been deliberately done by Zubair through electronic media to insult the religious feelings of a particular community with intent to provoke breach of peace and the SI also stated that the FIR is not to be uploaded being "sensitive" in nature.
Earlier in the day, the Delhi Police told the court that Zubair allegedly “used controversial tweets to hurt religious feelings in an effort to get fame".
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through one of his tweets posted in 2018, officials said.
Police claimed that Zubair posted such tweets to increase his followers, but did not substantiate the claim.
His arrest drew condemnations from various quarters, including journalists' bodies and Opposition parties.
On Tuesday, Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha rejected a media report that Zubair had received Rs 50 lakh in his account in the last three months.
Sinha shared the news article on Twitter and said, "Fact-check: Absolutely lies. Police is linking donations received by Alt News to Zubair. All the money that Alt News receives goes to the organisations bank and not any individuals. The bank statement of Zubair's personal account of which I have a copy debunks this falsehood."
However, DCP Malhotra said that they are also looking at the source of funding received by Zubair and as per the investigation so far, they do have evidence that in the last three months, Zubair had received Rs 50 lakh in his bank account.
When asked if Sinha has anything to do with the case, the officer said so far, his involvement has not been found.
Earlier this month, a case against Zubair was registered under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language etc.) and 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the DCP said.
However, he was arrested in connection with one of his tweets that had a questionable image with a purpose to deliberately insult the god of a particular religion, he said.
On Monday, Sinha alleged that Zubair was arrested in a case for which no notice was given by the police, which is mandatory under law for the sections under which he has been held.