December 8, 2023

Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

Facebook summons: SC cites dichotomy in Delhi house panel’s stand

New Delhi, The Supreme Court on Wednesday pointed out the dichotomy in the stand of the Delhi Assembly panel regarding the summons sent to Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan seeking his presence before it in connection with the Delhi riots, and its arguments in the court.

Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee, had brought on record three points before the top court – Mohan was called only as a witness, no coercive step was intended against him, and Facebook was called to assist in developing a framework to prevent its misuse.

As he reiterated that Mohan was only being summoned as a witness, the bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari told Singhvi that there is a difference in his submissions before the court and the content of notice sent by the panel.

Justice Kaul cited the summons issued to Mohan on September 18 which said: “Please note that non-compliance of this summons will be treated as breach of privilege of the committee and necessary action, as deemed fit, shall be taken against you.”

He also cited the press conference on August 31, where the Committee’s Chairman announced that “Facebook should be treated as a co-accused” in the Delhi riots and that there was a “premeditated conspiracy between Facebook, rioters and anti-social elements”.

Justice Kaul told Singhvi: “This is not what you have said in the notice. Advise them (the panel) better and issue better notices. I’m sure you will be able to remedy the notice. And in that press conference, if you have said those things, then you will have to take a stand.”

Singhvi submitted before the bench that the transcript of the press conference read out is misleading, as it intended to show that Facebook was being misused. He insisted that there were only summons and there is no privilege involved here.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Mohan, submitted before the bench that administrative control over social media is with the Centre and raised the contentious issue of breach of privilege mentioned in the notice.

Terming it a “brazen violation of constitutional rights under Article 19 and 21”, he said that his client was told to “come and answer”, and was saying that he “chose not to speak, whether as a witness for forming legislation”. Can Mohan be called, Salve asked.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Facebook, reiterated that what happened is completely unconstitutional and insisted that notice has been issued against his client’s employee and allegations have been against Facebook. “They are saying Facebook is guilty,” he argued.

After a hearing close to two hours, the top court issued notice on Mohan’s plea and directed the Delhi Assembly panel not to take coercive action against Mohan till October 15. The bench asked the Delhi Assembly panel to file its response on the plea and has posted the matter for further on October 15.

Hindi Website