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India’s Apex Court Rejects FB India VP’s Plea Against Summons Related To Delhi Riots

India’s Supreme Court said the Delhi Assembly can question Facebook and its officials without taking on a prosecuting role.

NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court on July 8 dismissed a plea filed by Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan against a summons issued by the Delhi Assembly Committee in connection with riots in the capital city of Delhi.

The peace and harmony committee of the Delhi Assembly Committee has sought Mohan’s appearance in connection with an investigation pertaining to the violence in Delhi.

A three-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul along with Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, delivered the verdict on the petition filed by Mohan.

The Delhi riots lasted for seven days in Feb 2020, and more than 50 people lost their lives. Facebook has come under the scanner, with the committee accusing the company of playing a part in fueling the Delhi riots by sheltering offensive and hateful content.

The 188-page judgment authored by Justice Kaul said that social media platforms like Facebook have the power and potential to influence people and that debates and posts on these platforms have the potential to polarize society since users don’t have the resources to verify the veracity of the content. 

However, the Supreme Court, in its judgment, said that the Assembly’s peace and harmony committee would have no jurisdiction over many issues, including the law and order of Delhi, which comes under the Central government. 

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, reading the judgment, said that the Delhi Assembly could seek information from Facebook and its officials about its alleged role in the Delhi riots, but it cannot go into the issue of law, order, and prosecution. The apex court said that the emphasis should also be laid on the transparency of proceedings. 

“We are of the view that because of the pervasive impact of the violence, the Committee could legitimately attend to such grievances encompassing varied elements of public life,” the apex court said in its verdict

“Thus, it would be entitled to receive information and deliberate on the same to examine their bearing on peace and harmony without transgressing into any fields reserved for the Union Government in the Seventh Schedule.”

“Mohan had approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the summons issued by the ‘Peace and Harmony committee’ of the Delhi Assembly to probe “the role of fake social media posts in creating communal riots in North East Delhi” in February 2020,” internet rights advocacy group, the Internet Freedom Foundation tweeted.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Praveen Pramod Tewari)

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