FB India MD refuses to appear before Assembly panel

Facebook India MD Ajit Mohan refuses to appear before Delhi Assembly panel

Representative Image. Credit: AFP Photo

Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan did not appear before a Delhi Assembly panel on Tuesday, questioning its jurisdiction to summon him, even as panel head and AAP MLA Raghav Chadha saying that they will be left with no option but to invoke penal jurisdiction of the House against him if he refuses again.

The Committee on Peace and Harmony has summoned Mohan in connection with its probe against Facebook following allegations that it did not adhere to its own policy on taking down hate posts by some BJP supporters fearing that it will anger the ruling party and will have adverse business implications. The panel also said it is of the belief that Facebook must be heard with regard to its role in Delhi riots.

Read | Hateful content: Delhi Assembly panel summons Facebook India's MD Ajit Mohan

As Mohan refused to attend, Chadha said, "non appearance of Mohan, who is called as a witness to depose before the committee, is contempt of the Delhi Legislative Assembly and disregard of the Assembly's privilege...In the event of subsequent default, committee shall be constrained to invoke its power to initiate breach of privilege proceedings against Facebook India unit and thus inviting penal jurisdiction of the house among others."

Mohan has cited overriding jurisdiction of the Centre as the reason for objecting to the notice for appearance. Chadha said it appeared like a "sly attempt" to evade responsibility and "conceal" facts.

"The frivolous technical grounds cited by the Facebook smacks of premeditated attempt to non-cooperation and ill-assistance with the proceedings in the committee. Reasons cited are demonstrably unsustainable and erroneous in nature. The committee is well within its jurisdiction to call and examine the Facebook officials before it," he said.

The committee has decided to give "one last opportunity" to Mohan to appear before the committee. Mohan had earlier appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology on September 2.

Chadha said the notice of appearance issued to Facebook is directly related to the incidents of Delhi riots while proceedings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee are on the subject “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”.

Chadha had earlier said the witnesses who deposed have spoken about an "unholy nexus" between Facebook and the BJP and the committee will further probe the allegations ranging from the role of Facebook in the riots in Delhi and other places. 

On September 12, Chadha had said, "summons were issued on the basis of scathing depositions of the key witnesses as well as incriminating material submitted by them on record. Having regards to the compelling evidence brought forth by the witnesses, the committee is of the belief that Facebook should be impleaded as co-accused in the Delhi riots investigations.