No Summon or Coercion of Facebook India VP Till Case Is Over: SC 

A bench of justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari will be considering the matter on Wednesday.

Updated
India
3 min read
Ajit Mohan, Facebook India managing director and vice-president.
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 23 September, issued a notice on the petition filed by Facebook India Vice President against summons issued by Delhi Assembly panel and said there will be no further meetings with Ajit Mohan until the case is disposed of.

A Supreme Court bench was hearing Facebook India Vice-President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan’s plea against a notice issued by the Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony committee to appear before it.

The panel, chaired by Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chaddha, had summoned Mohan over the social media platform's alleged role in the Delhi riots in February, reported news agency ANI.

Mohan, in his plea had submitted that the Panel has no right to take action against him as there is no law that empowers a state legislature to take coercive action against any person unless it obstructs or impedes its legislative functions.

A bench of justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari heard senior advocates Harish Salve (for Mohan), Mukul Rohatgi (Facebook) and Abhishek Manu Singhvi (For Raghav Chadha, panel chairperson).

Salve submitted on behalf of Mohan that to coerce a private citizen to appear before the Assembly committee with the threat of a penalty is a violation of fundamental rights.

Rohati, who appeared for Facebook, submitted that the panel cannot act like a court and has no authority to process an enquiry of this nature.

The court will next hear the matter on October 15 and directed that no coercive action be taken against the Facebook India vice president till then. Singhvi, in his arguments, submitted that Mohan was only called as a witness and that no coercive action was planned.

The Delhi Assembly committee had issued fresh summons to Mohan on Sunday, 21 September, after he had skipped the 18 September summon. The panel had said that 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. The committee asked the social media giant to be present before it on 23 September which has now been deferred.

Prior to that, on 15 September, Facebook executives skipped a hearing of the committee.

Facebook VP Had Appeared Before Parliamentary Panel

Facebook had refused to attend the hearing, arguing that they have already appeared before a Parliamentary panel.

The subject of discussion by the Parliamentary standing committee on IT, however, was different from that of the Delhi Assembly committee.

The Delhi Assembly Committee on Peace and Harmony had decided to summon Facebook officials while looking into complaints about the social media site's alleged "deliberate and intentional inaction to contain hateful content" in India.

Mohan was grilled for over two-and-a-half hours by the Parliamentary Committee on IT on Wednesday, 2 September.

Mohan, who was summoned by the 30-member standing committee, was asked a wide range of questions including on the recent Wall Street Journal articles, allegations of political bias among its top executives, and inaction on hate speech posts and political advertisements during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mohan, who faced a barrage of questions, was also asked what he had to say about allegations of Facebook actively promoting hate speech.

In his response, Mohan stated that the social media company denounces all hate speech and denied claims of bias towards any political party, according panel members who were present at the meeting.

(With inputs from ANI and IANS.)

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