Bad day for Facebook and Twitter in the Indian courts
Thursday was not a good day for US social media giants Facebook and Twitter in Indian courts. On Thursday, the Delhi High Court granted two weeks’ to Twitter Inc to file an affidavit, notarized in the United States, on compliance with the new Information Technology (IT) Rules here and made it clear that it was not extending any protection to the micro-blogging platform. Twitter informed the Court that they have appointed an interim chief compliance officer (CCO) on July 6 and resident grievance officer (RGO) and interim nodal contact officer will be appointed by July 11 and within two weeks, respectively. Twitter’s advocate Sajan Poovayya told the court that Twitter was “actively recruiting for permanent position”.
After hearing Twitter’s arguments, the High Court said the Central government was free to take action against Twitter Inc in case of any breach of the new IT Rules. “It is made clear that since this court has not passed any interim order, this court has granted time to Respondent No 2 (Twitter Inc) to file an affidavit, no protection is granted. It is open to the Centre to take action against Respondent 2 in case of any breach of the Rules”, a bench of Justice Rekha Palli said while listing the matter for further hearing on July 28. Advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, told the court that it was not seeking any protection either. He told the court that since Twitter was in the process of setting up a liaison office in India, it could not appoint “permanent employees”.
Advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, told the court that it was not seeking any protection either.
Facebook and Delhi Assembly
Meanwhile the Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a plea filed by Facebook India Vice President and MD Ajit Mohan challenging the summons issued by the Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony committee for failing to appear before it as a witness in connection with the north-east Delhi riots last year. A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul termed Mohan’s plea as pre-mature saying nothing has happened against him before the Assembly panel. Pronouncing the verdict, Justice Kaul said that the technological age has created digital platforms that can be uncontrollable.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, delivered its verdict on the plea filed by Mohan, Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd and Facebook Inc which contended that the committee lacked the power to summon or hold petitioners in breach of privileges for failing to appear before it and had exceeded its constitutional limits. The apex court said the option of not answering before the committee cannot be disputed and the representative of the petitioner can deny answering the question if it falls within the prohibited domains. It said the Assembly does not have the power to legislate on the issue of law and order which falls under the Union List in the Constitution. It said the objective of peace and harmony go beyond law and order and police. The bench said in the judgement, it has divided the issues into three categories – privilege, free speech and legislative competence.
Facebook had challenged last year’s September 10 and 18 notices issued by the committee that sought Mohan’s presence before the panel probing the Delhi riots in February and Facebook’s role in spreading alleged hate speeches. The Delhi Assembly had earlier said that no coercive action has been taken against Mohan and he was only summoned by its committee to appear as a witness in connection with the northeast Delhi riots.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Delhi Assembly had said that Mohan has not been issued any summons for breach of privilege. During the arguments before the apex court, Mohan’s counsel had said that “right to silence” is a virtue in present “noisy times” and the assembly has no legislative power to set up a panel to examine the issue of peace and harmony. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Facebook official, had said that setting up the peace panel was not the core function of the Delhi assembly as the law and order issue fell under the domain of the Centre in the national capital.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, representing the panel of the assembly, had said that the assembly has the power to summon. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had opposed the submission of the panel of the assembly saying that law and order squarely fell under the domain of the Delhi Police which is accountable to the Central government.
 Supreme Court Refuses To Quash Delhi Assembly’s Summons To Facebook India Head In Delhi Riots Enquiry – Jul 08, 2021, Live Law
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