23 Sep 2020: No coercive action against Facebook executive: Delhi panel tells SC
A Delhi Assembly panel on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it will take no coercive action against Facebook's top executive in India over the social media giant's alleged role in the February Delhi riots.
The panel had alleged the misapplication of Facebook's anti-hate speech rules during the February riots and had summoned Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan.
Here are more details.
Plea: Mohan's SC plea claimed panel's summons violated fundamental rights
A three-judge SC bench—comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose, and Krishna Murari—was hearing a plea filed by Mohan through advocate Harish Salve.
Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Facebook while senior advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi represented the Delhi panel chief, Raghav Chadha.
Mohan's plea stated the summons issued by the panel with a threat of penalty constituted a violation of fundamental rights.
Arguments: 'Not a public servant, whose statement is required'
"The summon is a brazen violation of my fundamental rights. I am not a public servant, whose statement is required. I am an American company," Salve told the top court, according to NDTV.
The right to speech under Article 19(1)(a) also includes the right not to speak, Salve contended, LiveLaw reported.
Rohatgi argued that the panel has predetermined that Facebook colluded in Delhi riots.
Panel’s response: Mohan only summoned as witness, panel told SC
Reportedly, Singhvi submitted that the Facebook executive was only being summoned as a witness, citing news reports that the social media platform was misused to incite communal violence.
"No coercive step is intended by Delhi assembly against Facebook," he told the court, clarifying that the panel did not allege any direct complicity.
The panel has the power to conduct an investigation, Singhvi contended.
Panel: Delhi panel defers today's meeting
The Delhi Assembly committee on Peace and Harmony is looking into complaints on the "role or complicity of Facebook officials in the Delhi riots" that occurred in the national capital's Northeast region in February 2020.
The panel has notably deferred its meeting scheduled for today (Wednesday).
It had issued two summonses to Mohan, on dates August 31, 2020, and September 18, 2020.
Fact: SC issues notice to Delhi Assembly secretary
The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Delhi Assembly secretary, the Centre, the Secretary-General of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, and the Delhi Police. The court will next hear the matter on October 15.
Backstory: Delhi riots left over 50 dead; hundreds injured
Intense violence had broken out in Delhi in late-February over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The violence evolved into the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in decades which left over 50 dead and hundreds injured.
The Delhi panel is probing Facebook's alleged role in the matter after receiving "several complaints" from people based on a report published in The Wall Street Journal.
WSJ report: WSJ report claimed Facebook overlooked hate-speech rules for ruling party
Citing sources, WSJ had reported on August 14 that Facebook deliberately ignored incendiary content from members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-wing groups even after the issue was flagged internally by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The report further said that Facebook's top public policy executive in India, Ankhi Das, overlooked hate-speech rules over incendiary posts by BJP members.
Fact: Facebook an 'open, transparent and non-partisan platform'
In its defense, Facebook had said that it is an "open, transparent and non-partisan platform." Separately, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, has already heard Facebook's representatives on September 2.