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Facebook moves to SC challenging Raghav Chadha’s summons, says they are answerable to Union govt, not a Delhi assembly panel

Facebook has stated in its petition that the subject matter under investigation fell within the exclusive domain of the Union government and a state legislative assembly cannot compel witnesses to appear and provide evidence on such subjects.

A week after Facebook India snubbed a Delhi Assembly committee’s summons, the social-media giant Facebook India and its vice president Ajit Mohan have filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the summons issued by the Delhi assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee.

According to the reports, the petition filed by the Facebook in the Supreme Court against the repeated summons issued by Delhi assembly’s ‘Peace and Harmony Committee’ contends that the subject matter under investigation fell within the exclusive domain of the Union government and a state legislative assembly cannot compel witnesses to appear and provide evidence on such subjects.

“The Committee seeks to compel petitioner No. 1 (Ajit Mohan) to provide testimony on subjects within the exclusive domain of the Union of India. Specifically, the Committee is seeking to make a ‘determination of the veracity of allegations levelled against Facebook’ in the Delhi riots, which intrudes into subjects exclusively allocated to the Union of India,” the petition said.

The plea filed in the Supreme Court also said that the summons violates the right of the petitioner to remain silent and his right to privacy, which are fundamental rights. The plead said that the summons issued by the Delhi assembly, targeting Facebook – a platform that allows users to express themselves may create a chilling effect on the free speech rights of users of the Facebook service.

The case will be heard by a three-judge bench headed by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on Wednesday.

Facebook snubs Raghav Chadha’s summons

Earlier on September 15, Facebook India had snubbed the summons issued by the Delhi Assembly’s ‘Peace and Harmony Committee’, led by AAP’s Raghav Chadha, asking them to testify before them. The summons was issued to Managing Director and Vice-President Ajit Mohan over complaints of ‘deliberate inaction’ by Facebook against alleged hate speech that ‘culminated in the Delhi riots’.

In its statement, Facebook India had declined to attend the hearing of the committee, citing that they have already testified before a Parliamentary Standing Committee in early September for ‘safeguarding citizen’s rights’.

The AAP member-led committee had was first summoned Mohan on September 10 for its meeting scheduled on September 15 in connection with complaints alleging deliberate omissions and inaction by the social media company in removing hateful content and posts.

The committee had claimed it had prima facie found Facebook India of allegedly being complicit in aggravating the communal violence in north-east Delhi in February that left at least 53 people dead. It is notable here that AAP’s pwn leader Tahir Hussain is one of the main accused in the riots.

Following the snub, AAP MLA Raghav Chadha, the head of the committee, had taken offence and had labelled Facebook’s action as a ‘disregard’ to the ‘privilege’ of the committee. He had informed that summons would be issued to the social media platform yet again. He alleged that Facebook is trying to hide crucial facts in connection to the riots.

Alleged links between AAP and Facebook management

Ankhi Das is the Public Policy Director, Facebook for India, and South & Central Asia. While the left-liberal jamaat has accused her of being a ‘BJP agent’, her old Facebook posts tell a different story. When the Aam Aadmi Party had shared a ‘Jhaadu Dance’ video prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Ankhi Das had dubbed it as a ‘cool campaign’.

Moreover, writing an opinion piece in the Daily-O titled, “The battle for Delhi on Facebook”, she had praised the Facebook campaign of the Aam Aadmi Party. Ankhi wrote, “Much like they did in the December 2013 Delhi elections, the Aam Aadmi Party had a much stronger ground game. Its street power merged seamlessly with its campaign strategies on Facebook.”

While suggesting that the BJP took its voters for granted, she insinuated, “The AAP’s success shows that no party – no matter how popular – can take the electorate or a good online strategy for granted.”

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