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Delhi Assembly proceedings FB Hate Speech lack jurisdiction: Modi Govt

The top court observed this issue would have to be examined through the aspect of legislative competence

Thursday October 15, 2020 5:55 PM, IANS

Delhi Assembly vs Facebook

New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the Delhi Assemblys peace and harmony committee proceedings, fact-finding exercise regarding hate speech circulation during Delhi riots, lack jurisdiction, as the issues involved pertains to policing and law and order, which is not under the purview of the Delhi government.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before the top court that public order and police do not fall under Delhi government, as it is under the domain of Union of India.

"The Legislative Assembly has no jurisdiction to issue these summonses", Mehta said.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed that these issues need to be thrashed out, as Delhi Assembly is not similar to those of the other states.

The top court observed this issue would have to be examined through the aspect of legislative competence. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Delhi Legislative Assembly, said:

"Can every person who is issued such a notice by an assembly in the country can come to this court seeking an advance ruling on the jurisdiction, without appearing before the Assembly?"

Kaul replied:

"You cannot say any Assembly. The issue is whether Assembly has jurisdiction keeping in mind the nature of Assembly, which is not an issue with other states."

The top court has also continued with its interim order stalling Mohan's appearance before the Assembly committee.

Narrowing down on specifics in the matter which needs debating, Kaul said:

"What is the role of the Legislative Assembly (in this matter)? Does it have the power in this subject matter?"

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Mohan, said his client is not satisfied with the format of the inquiry being conducted.

"I cannot be compelled to go. Allegations have been made against Facebook; it is just a platform. We are controlled by the Union of India through IT Act. I have a right to say I do not want to participate. They are warning, if you do not come," submitted Salve.

The top court has fixed the matter for further hearing on December 2, to decide if the Delhi Assembly can constitute a fact-finding committee in cases involving law and order.

In an affidavit, the Delhi Legislative Assembly has clarified before the top court that its committee's work is purely recommendatory, including making positive recommendations to ensure peace and harmony in the NCT of Delhi.

And, no coercive action is intended to be taken against Facebook India vice president Ajit Mohan if he appears before the committee, which summoned him as a witness in connection with the February 2020 Delhi riots, said the Delhi Legislative Assembly.

The Delhi government's Peace & Harmony Committee had summoned Mohan as an expert witness on the misuse of Facebook 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 moved the Supreme Court challenging these summonses.


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