New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Dismissing Facebook India MD Ajit Mohan's plea against the summons issued by the Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony committee, the Supreme Court on Wednesday termed his plea as pre-mature and said that 'nothing has happened against him before the Delhi Assembly'. Ajit Mohan had challenged the Delhi Assembly's summons to him after he failed to appear before it as a witness in connection with the northeast Delhi riots last year.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that the technological age has created digital platforms which can be uncontrollable at times. The top court's orders came on the plea filed by Mohan, Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd and Facebook Inc which contended that the committee lacked the power to summon or hold petitioners in breach of privileges for failing to appear before it and had exceeded its constitutional limits.

"Social media platforms have the power and potential to influence people across the border. Debates on these platforms, like Facebook, have the potential to polarise the society and less informed individuals may not verify the information and take it as the gospel of truth," the court said.

The bench further said the option of not answering before the committee cannot be disputed and the representative of the petitioner can deny answering the question if it falls within the prohibited domains. It said the Assembly does not have the power to legislate on the issue of law and order which falls under the Union List in the Constitution.

The bench, in its judgement, said that it has divided the issues into three categories – privilege, free speech and legislative competence. "Delhi Assembly Panel cannot don the role of (a) prosecuting agency and direct the filing of (b) charge sheet. The statements made by the assembly panel about making Facebook a co-accused in the charge sheet are outside its scope. The statements are hardly conducive to the fairness of the investigation."

"Facebook officials can choose to not answer questions as they appear before the panel", the court further underlined.

The petitioners had challenged last year's September 10 and 18 notices issued by the committee which sought Mohan's presence before the panel probing the Delhi riots in February and Facebook's role in the spread of alleged hate speeches.

The Delhi Assembly had earlier said that no coercive action has been taken against Mohan and he was only summoned by its committee to appear as a witness in connection with the northeast Delhi riots.

Earlier in December last year, the Peace and Harmony committee had moved the top court seeking to intervene in the plea filed by Mohan and others. On October 15 last year, the Centre had told the top court that proceedings of the Peace and Harmony committee is “without jurisdiction” as the issue pertained to law and order.

The apex court had said that its September 23 last year order asking the assembly's panel not to take any coercive action against Mohan, would continue till further orders.

(With PTI Inputs)

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan