New Delhi– Amid the row over summonses to Facebook India Vice President Ajit Mohan, the Delhi Assembly has clarified before the Supreme Court that its committee is only to make recommendations for peace and harmony in the city, and no coercive action is intended to be taken against him if he appears before the committee, which summoned him as a witness in connection with the February 2020 Delhi riots.
In an affidavit, the Assembly said: “No coercive action has been taken against the Petitioner No 1 (Mohan) and none was intended if the Petitioner No 1 merely attended and participated in the proceedings as a witness. It is also important to note that the proceedings are being conducted in most transparent manner with live broadcast and therefore, there is no question of any apprehension in respect of the proceeding either by the Petitioner No 1 or anyone else.”
It also clarified that there is no notice to Mohan, asking him to appear before this committee for a breach of privilege or contempt of the committee.
The Assembly insisted that the scope of the committee’s work is purely recommendatory, including making positive recommendations to ensure peace and harmony in the NCT of Delhi in the future which relates to various heads/entries of competence of the Assembly in List II and List III of the Constitution’s Seventh Schedule.
However, it said that a witness cannot claim his right to silence or to be let alone in response to the summons to depose before a lawful committee of an empowered legislature, and such a right is not fundamental except when the person is an accused under Article 20 of the Constitution.
“There is no conflict between Article 19(1)(a) and Rule 172(4) of the Rules of Procedure of Legislative Assembly of Delhi as the right to remain silent is relevant only in a criminal investigation. The proceedings before a Committee of the Legislature are not criminal or judicial proceedings,” the Assembly said in its affidavit.
The Assembly said there is no accused before a committee and all persons who appear before it is witnesses and are subjected to examination by its members as per rules of the house.
The Delhi government’s Peace & Harmony Committee had summoned Mohan as an expert witness on the misuse of Facebook for disseminating hateful content during the riots. The committee had issued summons to Mohan on two occasions allegedly stating that his non-appearance would be treated as breach of privilege. Mohan had then moved the Supreme Court challenging these summonses. (IANS)