Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 23
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee not to take any coercive action against Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan till October 15 in connection with summons issued to him to depose before it with regard to recent Delhi riots.
A three-judge Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul also issued notices to Delhi Legislative Assembly Secretary, Ministries of Law and Justice, Home Affairs, Electronics and IT, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha Secretary Generals and Delhi Police, asking them to respond to Mohan’s petition.
The Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee – which is probing Facebook’s alleged role in spreading hate speech – had on September 10 issued notice to Mohan seeking his presence before it. Mohan and Facebook have challenged the notice.
On behalf of Mohan, senior advocate Harish Salve, however, contended parliamentary privilege didn’t extend to such an inquiry and the panel couldn’t have asked him to appear before it.
Pointing out that the summons stated that Mohan’s failure to be present would amount to breach of privilege, Salve said, “Privilege is something to be decided by the Assembly. A Committee can’t decide whether action on privilege can be taken or not…This is a serious threat,” he submitted.
The Delhi Legislative Assembly counsel told the Bench that Mohan was summoned by the peace and harmony committee of the Delhi Legislative Assembly only as a witness to get the social networking site’s suggestions on devising mechanisms to prevent misuse of the platform. No coercive action was intended against Facebook and that he was not summoned as an accused, said senior counsel AM Singhvi.
Salve was supported by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Facebook, who said: “If he (Mohan) does not go before the Committee, it is not breach of privilege. I, personally as a lawyer, have been called by Parliament for giving opinions a number of times. You cannot compel and say non-appearance will be a breach of privilege.”