Facebook India Managing Director and Vice President Ajit Mohan has challenged a notice from the Delhi Assembly's ‘Peace and Harmony’ committee in the Supreme Court over the social media giant’s alleged "deliberate and intentional inaction to contain hateful content” in India. Besides Mohan, other petitioners include Facebook India Online Services Pvt. Ltd and Menlo Park headquartered Facebook, Inc.
The committee had summoned the Facebook executives recently to answer serious charges linked to the February Delhi riots. According to media reports, the Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear the plea by Mohan. The firm has asked for the withdrawal of the summons.
According to the sources, the matter is learnt to be listed in the court of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Krishna Murari, wherein Ajit Mohan of Facebook India along with others has filed a writ petition against Legislative Assembly Delhi and others. This will come up for hearing for admission at the three-member bench of the Supreme Court to be heard through video conferencing.
According to the sources, the writ has been filed against the Legislative Assembly. The other parties include the Union of India Ministry of Law and Justice, Union of India Ministry of Home Affairs and Union of India Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The other parties include Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Delhi Police.
Facebook executives had earlier skipped the hearing of Delhi Assembly's 'Peace and Harmony' committee. The Mark Zuckerberg-led firm had told the committee that it had already appeared before a parliamentary panel and that the subject came under the Centre.
“This move by Facebook is more about creating a defence against such summons and notices from the Delhi Assembly in the future and avoid further embarrassment,” said a legal expert, who wished to remain anonymous. He said several Aam Aadmi Party MLA's in Delhi have demanded Facebook be implicated in the ‘Delhi Riots’ case and FIR (first information report) be registered against the company. This may add further credibility to the hate speech moderation both at the national and international level and allegations of bias in favour of the ruling party. “Now going to the Supreme Court is a strategic move by Facebook to dent any such action in future,” said the expert.
Facebook did not respond to the query on approaching the Supreme Court against the Delhi Assembly committee's notice.
According to media reports, the Delhi Assembly’s committee had issued a fresh notice to Facebook’s Mohan to ensure his presence for deposing before the panel on September 23. The reports said any defiance of the subsequent notice for appearance will be deemed to be an act of “breach of the constitutionally-guaranteed privileges” of the committee, warned a statement issued by the panel on Sunday.
Earlier, Facebook had said that its policies were applied globally without regard to political affiliation and the company did not profit from hate speech.