SC said that he has the option of not answering questions before the committee if they fall within the prohibited domains
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea filed by Facebook India’s vice-president and MD Ajit Mohan challenging the summons issued by the Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony committee for failing to appear before it as witness in connection with the north-east Delhi riots last year.
Recognising the powers of Delhi Assembly’s committee to summon officials of the social media platform for deposition, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul termed Mr Mohan's plea pre-mature, saying nothing has happened against him before the Assembly panel and that he has the option of not answering questions before the committee if they fall within the prohibited domains.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Facebook official, said that setting up of the peace panel was not the core function of Delhi Assembly as law and order falls under the domain of the Centre in the national capital.
The bench, also comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Hrishikesh Roy, said, “The Assembly admittedly does not have any power to legislate on aspects of law and order and police… As such, any representative of the petitioners (Ajit Mohan/Facebook) would have the right to not answer questions directly covered by these two fields (law and order and police).”
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Kaul, however, held, “In the larger context, the concept of peace and harmony goes much beyond law and order and police, more so in view of on-the-ground governance being in the hands of the Delhi government,” and added that the committee has the "right to seek information on any matter related to peace and harmony without encroaching (the) domain of the central laws.”
"Social media platforms have the power and potential to influence people across the border. Debates on these platforms, like Facebook, have the potential to polarise the society and less informed individuals may not verify the information and take it as gospel of truth," the court said, commenting on the role of social media.
The petitioners had challenged last year's September 10 and 18 notices issued by the committee which sought Mr Mohan's presence before the panel probing the Delhi riots in February and Facebook's role in the spread of alleged hate speeches.