The Supreme Court is scheduled to deliver its verdict on Thursday on a plea filed by Facebook India Vice President and MD Ajit Mohan and others challenging the summons issued by Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony committee for failing to appear before it as witness in connection with the north-east Delhi riots matter. A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy had on February 24 reserved its verdict on the plea.
During the arguments before the apex court, Mohan’s counsel had argued that right to silence is a virtue in present noisy times and the assembly has no legislative power to set up a panel to examine the issue of peace and harmony. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Facebook official, had said that setting up of the peace panel was not the core function of Delhi assembly as the law and order issue fell under the domain of the Centre in the national capital.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, representing the panel of the assembly, had said that the assembly has the power to summon. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had opposed the submission of the panel of the assembly saying that law and order squarely fell under the domain of the Delhi Police which is accountable to the Central government.
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 order asking the assembly’s panel not to take any coercive action against Mohan, would continue till further orders.
The plea filed by Mohan, Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd and Facebook Inc has contended that the committee lacks power to summon or hold petitioners in breach of its privileges for failing to appear and it was exceeding its constitutional limits. They have challenged the September 10 and 18 last year notices issued by the committee that sought Mohan’s presence before the panel which is probing the Delhi riots in February and Facebook’s role in spread of alleged hate speeches.
The Delhi Assembly had said that no coercive action has been taken against Mohan and he was only summoned by its committee to appear as witness in connection with north-east Delhi riots. In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Delhi Assembly had said that Mohan has not been issued any summons for breach of privilege.