What is IFSO, the Delhi police unit that arrested Mohammed Zubair?
The Delhi Police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit, a specialist team under the special cell, made “significant” arrests and registered cases against several political leaders and activists during the last year, citing the goal of preventing cybercrime, online abuse, and community discord.
Monday, the IFSO team arrested co-founder of fact-checking site Alt-News, Mohammed Zubair for allegedly hurting religious feelings with a 2018 tweet.
Zubair was brought before a magistrate late at night and taken into custody for a day.
The IFSO Unit or Cybercrime Unit is headed by DANIPS Senior Officer KPS Malhotra who holds the position of Deputy Commissioner of Police. During the arrest, he said: “Delhi Police have filed a case after receiving a complaint from a Twitter account, in which it was alleged that Mohammed Zubair had tweeted a questionable image with the aim of deliberately insulting the god of a particular religion Such tweets were retweeted and it emerged that there was a brigade of social media entities, who were indulging in insults, thus leading to a possible ramification on community harmony and generally opposed the maintenance of public tranquility.
The unit has an office in Dwarka. Other cyber cell police stations have also recently been opened in different parts of Delhi. All sensitive and major cases are transferred to the IFSO unit in Dwarka. It was previously called CyPAD (Cyber Prevention Awareness Detection). In 2021, Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana changed the Cyber Cell’s name from CyPAD to IFSO, giving the unit an additional charge of “national and economic security”.
Arrests and cases
Last year in February, the unit arrested climate activist Disha Ravi of Bengaluru for allegedly creating a ‘toolkit’ tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on the farmers’ protest in Delhi. Ravi and other activists were convicted in sections of promoting enmity, sedition and criminal conspiracy. While Delhi police had accused Ravi of “spreading disaffection against India” and promoting the violence that led to the Red Fort incident on January 26, Ravi was released on bail by the court.
In July last year, Delhi police filed a complaint against an app created on US platform GitHub after photos of nearly 80 Muslim women were used without their permission. The defendants attempted to “auction” the women online, using sexually explicit and vulgar comments. Five months later, another app was created on GitHub where photos of nearly 100 Muslim women were shared with objectionable comments.
Many journalists, activists, political leaders and others have been targeted by this app. Lawsuits have been filed in Mumbai, Noida and other cities against the unknown creators of the app. In January, Delhi police IFSO arrested 21-year-old engineering student Niraj Bishnoi from Assam and accused him of creating one of the apps. Shortly after Bishnoi’s arrest, police also arrested Aumkareshwar Thakur, 25, from Indore for allegedly creating the other app.
The police arrested them for inciting enmity, sexual harassment, insulting women’s decency, etc. Two indictments have been filed in the case. In March, a court granted bail saying “prolonged incarceration would be detrimental to his general welfare and career” and that the two defendants are young men and will not pose a flight risk.
This year, the IFSO unit also registered an FIR against a group of people for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Muslim women during a session on the Clubhouse app. An audio clip from the session has gone viral on social media in which speakers are allegedly heard making vulgar comments against Islam and Muslim women. While Mumbai police had arrested 3 people from Haryana in connection with the case, no arrests were made by Delhi police.
Recently, the unit registered two FIRs against politicians for allegedly spreading hatred, rumors and hurting religious feelings. In one of the FIRs, suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma was named for her alleged remarks against the Prophet.
The other FIR named AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, temple priest Dasna Devi Yati Narsinghanand, journalist Saba Naqvi and Hindu leader of Mahasabha Pooja Shakun Pandey. The FIR was against 31 people based on IFSO social media monitoring.
Led by DCP Malhotra, around six ACP-level officers and other personnel, the team is looking for abusive and incriminating material posted on social media, officers say. The unit also handles cases of cyber fraud, online harassment, data theft, crypto scams, call center fraud, bank fraud, etc.
The IFSO unit has specialized software and a dedicated cybercrime lab, used to recover data and information from damaged devices. The police also recover deleted data. There are professional hackers working under the department and recovering key information like chats and media in sensitive cases.
Under the direction of the police commissioner, the IFSO unit has been tasked with investigating organized crime, the cyber activities of “anti-national groups” and the dark web, an officer said.