The Supreme Court Wednesday directed the Delhi Legislative Assembly panel to not take any coercive action against Facebook India Vice-President and MD Ajit Mohan till October 15 in connection with a summon asking him to depose before it with regard to the northeast Delhi riots.
Mohan had approached the apex court challenging the September 10 and September 18 notices issued by Delhi Assembly’s peace and harmony committee that sought his presence before the panel.
The panel, which is probing Facebook’s role in spreading alleged hate speech during the riots, has also decided not to hold any meeting until the matter is disposed by the Supreme Court.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari issued notices to the secretary of the Legislative Assembly, the ministries of Law and Justice, Home Affairs, Electronics and IT, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, represented by the Secretary-General, and Delhi Police.
In its last notice to Mohan, the panel, headed by Delhi MLA Raghav Chadha , had warned the FB V-P that “failure to appear will be counted as breach of privilege of the committee and action will be taken”.
The committee, formed on March 2, earlier had said that it had “prima facie found Facebook complicit in the Delhi riots of February 2020 on the premise of incriminatory material produced on record by the witnesses as well as their scathing depositions before the Committee”.
Earlier this week, Facebook’s trust and safety director Vikram Langeh had sent a letter to Chadha, objecting to the notice and asked that it be recalled.
Langeh had said that regulation of intermediaries such as Facebook was the right of the Union government, that the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Information Technology was already examining the issues raised, and that law and order in Delhi comes under the purview of the Centre and not the state government.
The assembly committee said that as per a 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court Constitution Bench, the Delhi Legislative Assembly has legislative powers, and the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Legislative Assembly provides the committee powers to summon and ensure the presence of witnesses.
The hearing by the Assembly panel started in the backdrop of a Wall Street Journal report that claimed that a senior Facebook India policy executive had intervened in internal communication to stop a permanent ban on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker from Telangana, after he allegedly shared communally-charged posts on the social media platform.
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