Ajit Mohan, Delhi Riots, Supreme Court
Litigation News

Delhi Panel summon to Facebook India Head violates "Right to Remain Silent": Plea in SC challenges notice by "Peace & Harmony Committee"

ByDebayan Roy

Facebook India head, Ajit Mohan has moved the Supreme Court challenging the notice served upon him by the "Peace and Harmony committee" of Delhi government in relation to the February Delhi riots.

The plea by Mohan will be heard by a bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on September 23.

In his petition, which is set to be argued by Senior Advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi and filed by Advocate Mayank Pandey, the Facebook India chief has argued that the Delhi Assembly's committee does not have the Authority to compel him to appear before it, since the same issue was already before a parliamentary panel.

Mohan has submitted that he has already appeared before a Parliamentary standing committee in this regard.

Further the plea which seeks to quash the Delhi government notice also states that Police and Public Order of Delhi is within the domain of the Centre.

The petition also states that the press conference by AAP alleged that Facebook is prima facie guilty and supplementary charge sheet has to be filed and that the Delhi government had no authority to allege this.

Delhi Government had sent two summons to Mohan asking him to appear before the committee and stated that if he failed to appear then it would be a "breach of privilege."

When an enquiry into a subject matter over which the Legislature lacks jurisdiction extends beyond its members – whether by summoning non-members at the threat of sanctions for refusing to appear, or by directing agencies to take actions against those non-members – the matter is amenable to judicial review
States the plea

The petitioner states that there "is no law that empowers a State Legislature, including a committee formed by that Legislature, to take coercive action against any person unless it obstructs or impedes its legislative functions."

The plea further avers that by targeting the Facebook service – a platform that allows users to express themselves – "Summons create a chilling effect on the free speech rights of users of the Facebook service."

The plea states that this plea involves a question of whether a Committee of a State Legislature can compel a non-member to answer questions, thereby overriding the non-member’s fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution.

This above issue is pending in N. Ravi and Ors. v. Speaker, Legislative Assembly, Chennai, where the top Court observed that the interplay between Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 on one hand, and Article 194(3) on the other hand, requires detailed consideration, and referred these issues to a 7-Judge Bench.