Facebook cites right to silence, tells SC it cannot be forced to appear before any legislative panel

5 months ago 36
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NEW DELHI: Facebook on Wednesday told the

Supreme Court

that it is agreeable and complying with all Indian laws but it cannot be compelled to subject itself to the

jurisdiction

of

Parliament

and assembly to appear before their panels probing misuse of

social media

and its right to silence cannot be taken away.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Facebook, told a bench of Justices

Sanjay Kishan Kaul

, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy that the company and its

representatives

cannot be forced to appear before the legislative panel to give opinion, and the summons issued by

Delhi assembly

committee reeks of "constitutional arrogance".
As the bench questioned the social media platform about its "hesitancy" to comply with summons of the committee of Delhi assembly which is looking into last year's communal riots in the capital, when its representative had earlier appeared before Parliament’s standing committee on information technology, Salve submitted that it was for the company to decide whether to appear before any committee. He said Facebook representatives appeared before the parliamentary committee voluntarily.
"I went there for commercial compulsion. It is my choice where to appear. But I cannot be compelled. I have the right not to participate. It is my constitutional right to speech and silence," Salve replied.
He further elaborated that the company did not wish to be a party to political feud over the riots as it merely provides a platform for debate without participating. "There is divide on what happened and who is responsible for Delhi violence. What is going on is a political battle and I do not want to be part of it," Salve said.
The bench, however, observed that Facebook could not run away from the responsibility on what is happening on its platform. "You provide a platform where debate takes place. Can you then say that my hands are off? It is something which is troubling my mind," Justice Kaul said.
Solicitor General

Tushar Mehta

strongly opposed Salve’s contention and told the bench that the multinational company cannot take a stand that it could not subject itself to the jurisdiction of Parliament. He said the company had to appear even before competent jurisdiction of an assembly.. The SG, however, said the summons issued by Delhi assembly was wrong as law and order problem in Delhi comes within the Centre's jurisdiction.
"It is bound to appear. It also must respect the assembly if it has jurisdiction," Mehta said.
The bench thereafter reserved its order on Facebook's plea seeking quashing of the summons issued by Delhi assembly.
Earlier, Delhi Assembly had told SC that being an elected representative, it was its duty to examine measures to prevent online mass hate and consequent violence in its geographical area and the company cannot take the excuse that peace and harmony comes within the Centre's list of public order.
It had contended that the assembly "was giving value and stature" to Facebook by asking its official to appear before its panel but they were "insulting" themselves by refusing to appear and give inputs. The assembly said it was essential to understand how Facebook, which has lakhs of users in the NCT of Delhi, functions to explore ways to tackle hate speech and other similar challenges to social cohesion.
The assembly panel on peace and harmony is looking into complaints on the “role or complicity of Facebook officials in the Delhi riots" that happened in February last year.

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