1] The power of scrutiny: SC verdict on Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony (GS 2 FR)

Context –

  • The Supreme Court of India’s decision last week, confirming a committee of the Delhi Assembly’s ability to summon a senior Facebook executive, is an incredibly nuanced understanding of the scope of powers of State Assemblies in subjects governed by an Act of Parliament.
  • The power question arose in the first place because Facebook, whose India vice-president Ajit Mohan was repeatedly summoned by the Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony on the subject of the Delhi riots of 2020, argued before the Supreme Court that this was a case of overreach and that Delhi’s law and order was under the control of the central government.

Whats the issue –

  • The social media platform also stated that it is governed by the IT Act of Parliament and hence is not a matter for state governments to be worried with.
  • In sustaining the summons, the Court did not rely solely on a House’s legislative powers.
  • “The Assembly does not simply perform the duty of legislating; there are many other areas of governance that might constitute part of the Legislative Assembly’s core tasks, and hence the committee,” it correctly stated.
  • It argued that a House’s “inquisitorial” and “recommendatory” powers can be used to improve governance.
  • However, the committee was warned against “transgressing into any fields designated for the Union Government.”

Way Forward –

  • The notion that social media intermediaries are “merely a venue for the exchange of ideas without performing any meaningful function themselves” was rejected by the Court.
  • It then made a connection between what happens on these platforms and what happens in the real world.
  • The Court stated that misinformation on social media has had a “direct impact on wide areas of subject matter, ultimately affecting state government.”
  • Given the limitations of the Delhi Assembly’s powers in terms of law and order, the fact that the Court found that its committee could still summon a Facebook India official without infringing on the Centre’s territory now opens the door for social media platforms to be scrutinised by other States with significantly greater law and order powers.
  • More scrutiny is on the horizon.


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