The SC on Wednesday issued notice on Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan’s Plea, challenging the summons issued by Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee which is looking into Facebook’s alleged complicity in Delhi Riots.
A bench comprising of Justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari issued the notice after hearing Senior Advocates Harish Salve, Mukul Rohtadgi and Sr. Adv Dr AM Singvhi. The bench also recorded the submission of Singhvi that the meeting schedule for today has been deferred in view of the hearing and that there will be no further proceedings on the notice till the matter is finally disposed.
Salve submitted that to coerce a private citizen to appear before th e assembly panel with a threat of penalty is a violation of fundamental rights. Right to speech under Article 19(1) (a) also includes right not to speak.
He further submitted that the committee lacked the legislative power to make such an enquiry. In thus regard, he referred to Article 239AA (3)(a) of the Constitution and said tat police and law & order are outside the domain of Delhi Assembly.
The assembly panel on peace and harmony is looking into complaints on the role or complicity of facebook officials in the Delhi riots that took place in February 2020.
The petitioner has clarified that although he does not seek judicial review of a State Legislatures’ right to merely discuss issues outside of its legislative competence, so long as it does not seek to exercise power over non-members, however, “when an enquiry into a subject matter over which the legislature lacks jurisdiction extends beyond its members- whether by summoning non-members at the threat of sanctions for refusing to appear, or by directing agencies to take actions against those non members- the matter is amenable to judicial review.
In this perspective, the plea puts forth that by targeting the Facebook service- a platform allows users to express themselves- the impugned summonses create a chilling effect on the free speech rights of users of the Facebook service.