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The top court also directed all parties to file their replies, rejoinders and necessary documents in the Facebook hate speech case to enable a detailed hearing from next date. (Photo: Mint)
The top court also directed all parties to file their replies, rejoinders and necessary documents in the Facebook hate speech case to enable a detailed hearing from next date. (Photo: Mint)

Delhi assembly panel lacks jurisdiction to probe February riots: Centre to SC

  • A three-judge bench extended interim protection, granted on 23 September to Facebook officials, from summonses and coercive actions till the next date of hearing which is 2 December

NEW DELHI : The Centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the Delhi Assembly's peace and harmony committee lacks jurisdiction to probe hate speech circulated during Delhi riots that took place in February. It added that the matter pertained to policing and law and order, which is not under the purview of the Delhi government.

The assembly panel is looking into complaints on the "role or complicity of Facebook officials in the Delhi riots" and had summoned Facebook India vice-president and managing director Ajit Mohan for questioning.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said, “Public order and police are not under Delhi assembly and their action is without jurisdiction."

Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for Facebook and speaking for Mohan said, “I am not willing to go before them. Allegations are being made that Facebook has created disharmony in Delhi. Facebook does not write anything. It provides a platform. We are regulated by a Central law – the IT Act."

The submissions were made before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in a plea filed by Mohan against the summons issued by the Delhi panel looking into the social media firm’s alleged failure to crack down on hate speech. Mohan, in his plea, said that such action can only be taken by the Union of India.

The apex court bench, also comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Aniruddha Bose, observed that it needs to be argued whether the Delhi legislative assembly is within its power to deal with the given matter.

The three-judge bench extended interim protection, granted on 23 September to Facebook officials, from summons and coercive actions till the next date of hearing which is 2 December.

The court also directed all parties to file their replies, rejoinders and necessary documents to enable a detailed hearing from next date.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing chairman of the panel, Raghav Chadha, reiterated its stand that the summons was for Mohan to become a witness and no coercive action was ever intended by the Delhi panel.

Facebook was sought to be made party to the enquiry in order to ascertain the safety measures in place to avoid the misuse of the social media platform, Singhvi had said in last hearing.

On 15 September, the committee, headed by Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Raghav Chadha, had asked Facebook to ensure that company executives appear before the panel at its next meeting, warning that a refusal will lead to “breach of privilege" proceedings against the officials.

Mohan had then moved the Supreme Court challenging these summonses.

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