Right to silence a virtue in these “noisy times”: Facebook official

Supreme Court reserves orders in Delhi Assembly summons case

Updated - February 24, 2021 10:48 pm IST

Published - February 24, 2021 10:45 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Ajit Mohan

Ajit Mohan

Facebook official Ajit Mohan urged the Supreme Court on Wednesday to recognise right to silence as a virtue in these “noisy times”.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, senior advocate Harish Salve said the right to silence was as important as the right to free speech.

The court heard and reserved its orders on a petition filed by Mr. Mohan against the summons issued to him by a Delhi Legislative Assembly Committee. Mr. Mohan had challenged the summons and the threat of breach of privilege posed by the committee in case he failed to come and testify about any role played by social media platforms in the events leading up to the Delhi riots in February last year.

Mr. Salve submitted that the committee, by compelling a private person to appear before it by dangling the threat of a privilege motion, had failed in both competence and jurisdiction.

“There are two broad silos, one is existence of powers in compulsion of appearance and second is competence. I will submit that they [Delhi Assembly] are wrong on both,” the senior lawyer said.

On February 17, the Centre had also questioned the competence of the Committee on Peace and Harmony to pass recommendations to regulate social media.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had argued that parliamentary laws like the Information Technology Act were already in place to deal with social media intermediaries.

“Offences pertaining to social media intermediaries are statutorily defined by Parliament. The field is occupied by a Central Act... If there is a problem, the answer is not to give power to a Committee of a State legislature. There should be a national response by a national body, namely, Parliament,” he said.

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