The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday ordered that the relief granted to Facebook India and Ajit Mohan, vice-president and managing director of Facebook India in the previous hearing at SC against respondents including Delhi Assembly will continue till the next hearing scheduled to be held in December.
The matter concerns the petition filed by Facebook India and Mohan, challenging the summons issued by Delhi Assembly's Committee on Peace and Harmony in connection with alleged links to Delhi riots that took place in February.
The SC directed that all the respondents including Delhi Assembly, if they choose, must file their affidavits by October 31. It further directed that rejoinders, if any, to the affidavits can be filed by the petitioners -- Mohan and Facebook, but they have to be submitted within two weeks therefrom.
“Facebook also asserted that it will not appear before the Delhi Assembly’s panel,” said Sumit Kochar, a corporate commercial lawyer and transaction advisory partner at Dolce Vita Trustees. “It said there is no meaning of summoning Facebook as a witness as it only provides a social media platform and doesn't write anything leading to any social issue, hence, summoning Facebook for any proceeding is futile,” he said.
Facebook did not comment about the query on the development at the SC.
Last month, the SC directed the Delhi Legislative Assembly panel not to take coercive action against Facebook India and Ajit Mohan, vice-president and managing director of Facebook India, till October 15, in connection with summons asking him on behalf of Facebook to depose before it with regard to the Delhi riots. The Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee is probing the social media giant’s alleged failure to track down hate speech. The petition challenged the the panel's jurisdiction to take action against Mohan. The senior advocate representing Mohan had mentioned that the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes the right to not speak.
The Delhi Assembly in a counter-claim submitted earlier had mentioned that the witness (Facebook) cannot claim his right to silence or to be left alone in response to the summons to depose before a lawful committee of empowered legislation. It had said the right to remain silent is not a fundamental right except when the person is an accused under Article 20 of the Constitution.
“This was duly refuted by Facebook today saying that the tone of the Delhi Assembly panel's affidavit is coercive, and it says Facebook’s Mohan has no right to silence,” said Kochar.