Delhi riots: Panel lacks jurisdiction to issue summons to FB, SC told

The plea challenged the two summoning orders, dated September 18 and 23, and said the Delhi Assembly “does not have the power to hold” him “in breach of its privileges for failing to appear in response to the impugned summonses” and that “there is no law that empowers the Committee to take coercive action against a non-member”.

The summons issued by the Peace and Harmony Committee of the Delhi Assembly to Facebook India head Ajit Mohan in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots is “without jurisdiction” as the subject is related to law and order, which is the Centre’s domain in Delhi, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court Thursday.

“Our stand is that public order and police are within the domain of Union of India and the Assembly has no jurisdiction to issue the summons,” Mehta told a bench of Justices S K Kaul and Dinesh Maheshwari, which was hearing a plea by Facebook and Mohan challenging the summons.

The plea challenged the two summoning orders, dated September 18 and 23, and said the Delhi Assembly “does not have the power to hold” him “in breach of its privileges for failing to appear in response to the impugned summonses” and that “there is no law that empowers the Committee to take coercive action against a non-member”.

Appearing for the Assembly, Senior Advocate A M Singhvi said Mohan has been called only as a witness. Reading from a counter affidavit filed on behalf of the panel, he said, “The scope of the power is recommendatory to make positive recommendations for the peace and harmony of NCT of Delhi in future” and added that “no coercive action was taken, or was intended against the petitioner”.

He pointed out that “this very Facebook has assisted a Parliamentary Committee” recently. “It all depends on the nature of the summons,” said Justice Kaul.

Appearing for Mohan, Senior Advocate Harish Salve said, “I’m not willing to go before them.” Salve contended that the tone of the Assembly committee’s counter affidavit “is coercive, and says Facebook VP has no right to silence”. Singhvi wondered if every person who is issued such a notice by an Assembly can come to SC for an advance ruling on jurisdiction, without appearing before the Assembly.

Justice Kaul said as regards Delhi, questions relating to the powers and jurisdiction of NCT of Delhi under Constitution may also arise. The court will now hear the matter in the first week of December. Meanwhile, its earlier order, directing no coercive action against Mohan, would continue.

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