Facebook gets new notice to appear before Delhi Assembly committee probing riots
- The fresh notice was placed by the Assembly before the Supreme Court, which is hearing a plea filed by Mohan and Facebook India challenging the notice summoning him to depose as a witness before the Committee.
The Delhi Legislative Assembly on Thursday issued a fresh notice to Facebook India, this time avoiding specific notice to its Vice-President Ajit Mohan, by asking a senior, responsible officer from the company to appear before the Peace and Harmony Committee examining the Delhi riots that took place in February last year.
The fresh notice was placed by the Assembly before the Supreme Court, which is hearing a plea filed by Mohan and Facebook India challenging the notice summoning him to depose as a witness before the Committee. The three-judge bench headed by Justice SK Kaul took the fresh notice on record and said, “The specific challenge to the earlier notices of September 10 and September 18 would not stand as those notices stand substituted with the fresh notice.”
For the Delhi Assembly, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi continued arguments for the second consecutive day. During the hearing, the bench, which also comprised of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, told Singhvi, “You have improved your situation with the new notice now.”
On Wednesday, the bench had hinted that Mohan’s petition suggested that the notice issued to him by the Assembly compelled him to appear and depose as a witness before a non-statutory. The bench had raised queries on whether the Assembly intended to specifically call Mohan or anybody in his place. Singhvi had pointed out to the Court that the notice never required only Mohan to depose but any senior, responsible person from the company capable of assisting the Committee.
In this backdrop, the fresh notice was issued requiring Facebook to depose before the Committee through a senior, responsible person. Singhvi argued the larger issue raised in the petition where Mohan has questioned the power of the Committee to summon him. This argument was based on the peculiar character assigned to the Delhi Assembly which has been denuded under the Constitution from legislating on three subjects – land, law and order and police.
In his two-hour s arguments, Singhvi led the bench through various entries in the State List and Concurrent List, by which the Delhi Assembly derives its power to discuss and debate on the issue in question. “I (Assembly) am discussing a subject not to the pleasure of the Central government. To say that I can’t even discuss is a matter of legislative dignity.” He cited Entry 1 in State List dealing with public order, which is distinct from law and order. Again, he cited Entry 1 in Concurrent List which gives a sweeping power to State Assemblies to legislate on the subject ‘criminal law’. On Wednesday, Singhvi cited Entry 39 in State List by which Assemblies can enforce attendance of witnesses for purpose of recording statements.
The bench told Singhvi, “Ultimately, what is to be decided is what the Peace and Harmony Committee is doing falls within those territories of which you (Assembly) have been excluded. There is peculiarity with Delhi due to exclusion of some entries (land, law and order, police). Reading of the entries have to be such that it will not amount to encroachment into excluded entries.”
The arguments in the case will continue on Tuesday.