Delhi violence inquiry case: SC refuses to quash Delhi Assembly's summons against Facebook India VP

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Representative image
Representative image

New Delhi [India], July 8 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Thursday in its judgment refused to quash the summons issued by the Peace and Harmony committee of the Delhi Assembly Committee against Facebook India's Vice President and Managing Director, Ajit Mohan, seeking his appearance in connection with an investigation pertaining to the alleged Delhi violence.

A three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy delivered the verdict, on the petition filed by Ajit Mohan, seeking quashing of the issuance of summons against him by the Peace and Harmony committee of the Delhi Assembly.

The 188-page, judgment authored by Justice Kaul, said that social media platforms have the power and potential to influence people across borders, like Facebook, and debates and posts on these platforms may have the potential to polarise the society as many members of society do not have the wherewithal to verify the veracity of the contents.

The Supreme Court, however, said in its judgement that the Delhi government Assembly's peace and harmony committee would have no jurisdiction over many issues, including the law and order of Delhi, which comes under the Central government.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, reading the judgement, said that Delhi Assembly can seek (extract) information from Facebook and its officials about its alleged role in the Delhi violence but it cannot go into the issue of law and order and prosecution.

"We are of the view that because of the pervasive impact of the violence, the Committee could legitimately attend to such grievances encompassing varied elements of public life. Thus, it would be entitled to receive information and deliberate on the same to examine their

bearing on peace and harmony without transgressing into any fields reserved for the Union Government in the Seventh Schedule," the Supreme Court said in its judgement.

There is no dispute about the right of the Assembly or the Committee to proceed on grounds of breach of privilege per se. The power to compel attendance by initiating privilege proceedings is an essential power. Members and non-Members (like the petitioners) can equally be directed to appear before the Committee and depose on oath, the Apex Court said.

The Supreme Court also said that in the given facts of the case, the issue of privileges is premature.

The Top Court said that canvassing a clash between privilege powers and certain fundamental rights is also preemptory in the present case. In any case, the larger issue of privileges vis-a-vis the right of free speech, silence, and privacy in the context of Part III of the Constitution is still at large in view of the reference to the larger Bench in N Ravi case.

"The Assembly admittedly does not have any power to legislate on aspects of law and order and police," the Top Court said and added that further, the regulations of intermediaries are also subject matter covered by the I.T. Act.

The Assembly does not only perform the function of legislating; there are many other aspects of governance that can form part of the essential functions of the Legislative Assembly and consequently the Committee," the Supreme Court said.

"In the larger context, the concept of peace and harmony goes much beyond law and order and police, more so in view of on-the-ground governance being in the hands of the Delhi Government," the Apex court said.

The Supreme Court also held that it will not be permissible for the Committee to encroach upon any aspects strictly within the domain of List II of the Seventh Schedule. "As such, any representative of the petitioners would have the right to not answer questions directly covered by these two fields," the Supreme Court said, in its judgement delivered today. (ANI)

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