Supreme Court asks Facebook MD to appear before Delhi Assembly

By: |
July 09, 2021 4:00 AM

It also held that the Delhi Assembly can seek information from Facebook and its officials about its alleged role in the Delhi riots but cannot go into law-and-order issues by acting as a prosecutor.

The judgement came on a petition by Mohan challenging the validity of the summons by the Assembly's panel claiming his right to silence.The judgement came on a petition by Mohan challenging the validity of the summons by the Assembly's panel claiming his right to silence.

The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stay the summons issued to Facebook India vice-president and managing director (MD) Ajit Mohan by the Delhi Assembly panel in the Delhi riots case, saying there is a need for social media platforms to show accountability to its users.

It also held that the Delhi Assembly can seek information from Facebook and its officials about its alleged role in the Delhi riots but cannot go into law-and-order issues by acting as a prosecutor.

Terming as “premature” the apprehension of coercive action alleged by Facebook and Mohan given summons issued by Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee, a bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked the top brass to appear before the Delhi Assembly panel in the 2020 riots probe.

Noting that Facebook has about 2.85 billion monthly active users as of March, which is over 1/3rd of the total population of this planet, including about 270 million registered users in India, the apex court said “such vast powers must necessarily come with responsibility. Entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with such power. While Facebook has played a crucial role in enabling free speech by providing a voice to the voiceless and a means to escape state censorship, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it has simultaneously become a platform for disruptive messages, voices, and ideologies…”

The Delhi Assembly committee has the “right to seek information on any matter related to peace and harmony without encroaching (the) domain of the central laws,” the top court said. However, the social media platform cannot be compelled to answer issues related to law and order or any other subject falling under the Centre’s domain.

Delhi Assembly is like any other Assembly except certain areas outside its domain, and its privilege power included the power to summon non-members too, the top court said while pointing out that the criminal actions concerning February 2020 riots in Delhi’s northeast were already pending before a trial court.

The judgement came on a petition by Mohan challenging the validity of the summons by the Assembly’s panel claiming his right to silence.

The Peace and Harmony Committee headed by AAP MLA Raghav Chadha was formed on March 2, 2020, following the Delhi Riots, as “serious questions have been raised on the role of the Facebook platform as a mechanism to disseminate hate and divisiveness”.

The top court, however, expressed its displeasure at statements made by Chadha that Facebook should be named as accused and prosecuted in riots, without hearing the officials of the social media platform.

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