FB India head can be exempted from appearing, Delhi Assembly to SC
New Delhi: The Delhi Assembly on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that any senior and responsible officer from Facebook can appear before it, instead of its India Vice President Ajit Mohan.
The Assembly’s committee on peace and harmony had issued two summons, seeking Ajit Mohan’s appearance before it to examine the social media organisation’s role in circulation of fake news during Delhi riots last year.
Mohan had moved the Supreme Court challenging these summonses. A bench headed by Justice S.K. Kaul told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Assembly, that Mohan’s counsel, senior advocate Harish Salve, had said that he cannot be compelled and no oath can be forced. Singhvi replied that he never said only Mohan should appear. At this, Justice Kaul replied that he is taking a note that the Assembly is open to others appearing before it too.
Singhvi said that any senior, responsible and competent person from Facebook could appear in person before the committee, and there will be a fresh notice in this context. The top court will continue to hear the case on Thursday.
In an affidavit, the Delhi Assembly had clarified before the top court that its committee work is purely recommendatory including making positive recommendations to ensure peace and harmony in the NCT of Delhi.
The Assembly, in its responsem had said that no coercive action is intended to be taken against Facebook India Vice President, if he appears before the committee, which summoned him as an expert witness in connection with the February 2020 Delhi riots, over the platform’s misuse for disseminating hateful content during the riots. The committee had issued summon to Mohan on two occasions allegedly stating that his non-appearance would be treated as breach of privilege.
Mohan’s plea said that on September 2, 2020, at the request of the Parliamentary Committee, he appeared before it and offered his views. “Specifically, the Committee is seeking to make a ‘determination of the veracity of allegations levelled against Facebook’ in the Delhi riots, which intrudes into subjects exclusively allocated to the Union of India”, said the plea.