Facebook India Head Challenges Peace & Harmony Committee's Notice in the Supreme Court
Delhi Assembly's Committee does not have any authority to compel him to appear before it since he has already appeared before a parliamentary panel on the same issue, argues Facebook India Head.
Facebook Head questions Peace committee’s authority
Facebook India Head - Mr Ajit Mohan has moved a petition in the Supreme Court challenging a notice served upon him for Facebook's alleged role in the Delhi riots of February. Delhi Government had sent two summons to Mr Mohan and asked him to appear before the committee and stated that if he failed to appear then it would be a "breach of privilege."
Mr Mohan contended that the Delhi Assembly's committee does not have authority to compel him to appear before it since he has already appeared before a Parliamentary standing committee in this regard.
In his petition, Mr Mohan has made the following submissions:-
- The Delhi government had no authority to make the allegations it made a press conference. In the press conference, AAP alleged that Facebook is prima facie guilty and a supplementary charge sheet has to be filed.
- 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.
- 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."Summons create a chilling effect on the free speech rights of users of the Facebook service."
The petition seeks to quash the Delhi government's notice stating that police and public order of Delhi is within the domain of the Centre.
Can State Legislature override fundamental rights of non-members?
The plea raised a pertinent 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 issue is pending in N. Ravi and Ors. v. Speaker, Legislative Assembly, Chennai. In this case, 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 has referred these issues to a 7-Judge Bench.
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