The Supreme Court is to pronounce its verdict tomorrow, July 8, in a plea filed by Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan, who has challenged the summons issued to him by the Delhi Assembly committee inquiring into the Delhi riots of 2020.
A three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy had reserved its order on February 2. During the previous hearings, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, counsel for Facebook, argued that the committee doesn’t have any authority to process such an enquiry or to decide that Facebook was involved in the Delhi riots.
Senior Counsel Harish Salve, who appeared for Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan, submitted that the right to speech under Article 19(1)(a) also includes the right not to speak. The Committee does not have the power to undertake such an enquiry and if Article 239AA(3)(a) of the Constitution is referred to, its clear that law and order and the police don’t fall in Delhi Assembly’s domain. He added that coercing a private citizen such as his client to appear before the panel with the threat of penalty was violative of his fundamental rights.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared on behalf of the chairman of the Assembly panel, submitted that the panel has the power to undertake the enquiry, after reports of Facebook being misused to incite communal violence were received. The panel has neither accused Facebook nor did it intend to take any coercive action against it.
The Facebook India Vice President was issued a summons on August 31, 2020, and another summons on September 18, after the assembly panel on peace and harmony started looking into complaints regarding the role of Facebook in the riots that took place in Delhi in February 2020.
He had approached the Supreme Court against a notice issued by the Assembly panel asking him to appear before it regarding the site’s alleged involvement in the February Delhi riots. The notice had asked Mohan to appear on September 23. Previously, notices were issued to Facebook India executives by the Assembly’s Committee for Peace and Harmony headed Raghav Chaddha, Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson, based on a news report that alleged involvement of Facebook in Delhi riots by deliberately not acting on hateful content.