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Supreme Court notice in Facebook challenge of Delhi Assembly summons

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has today issued notice in the challenge to Delhi Assembly’s summons sent to Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan regarding Facebook’s alleged involvement in Delhi riots back in February 2020z 

A three-judge bench of Justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari issued the direction while hearing plea filed by the Facebook India VP and will take up the matter for hearing next on 
October 15th. 

During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, Counsel for Facebook, argued that the panel 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, appeared for Facebook India Vice-President Ajit Mohan submitted that the right to speech under Article 19(1)(a) also includes 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 doesn’t fall in Delhi Assembly’s domain. He added that coercing a private citizen such as his client fo appear before the panel with threat of penalty was violative of his fundamental rights. 

According to Senior Advocate Singhvi, who appeared on behalf of Chairman of the assembly Panel, submitted that 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. 

Facebook India Vice-President Mohan was issued a summon on August 31, 2020 and another summon, on September 18, 2020, after the assembly panel on peace and harmony started looking into complaints regarding role of Facebook in the riots that took place in Delhi in February 2020.

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Ajit Mohan had on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court against a notice issued by a Delhi 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 Spokesperson, based on a news report that alleged involvement of Facebook in Delhi riots by deliberately not acting on hateful content.

-India Legal Bureau

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