The power of scrutiny

Source: The Hindu 

Relevance: This judgment clears an important issue related to the power of the state’s legislative assembly.


The recent verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) has enabled Delhi’s legislative assembly to scrutinise social media companies. This has opened the gates for scrutiny of social media platforms by other States as well. 

  • The SC in its latest verdict upheld the authority of a committee of the Delhi Assembly to summon a senior official of Facebook.
  • The official was summoned by the Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony on the subject of the Delhi riots of 2020.
Why was Facebook confronting the summon?
  • The company argued that this was a case of overreach, as Delhi’s law and order come under the central government.
  • This was also the position taken by the central government, which argued that the Delhi Assembly had no jurisdiction in this matter.
  • The social media platform also pointed out that it was governed by the IT Act of Parliament. This is not therefore something that any State government can be concerned with. 
About the verdict:
  • The Court, in upholding the summons, did not go merely by the legislative powers of a House. 
  • It said that the Assembly does not only perform the function of legislating. There are many other aspects of governance that can form part of the essential functions of the Legislative Assembly and consequently the committee.
  • Its point was that the “interrogating” and “recommendatory” powers of a House can be used for better governance. But it also cautioned the committee from “transgressing into any fields reserved for the Union Government.
Significance of the Verdict:
  • It is an extremely nuanced recognition of the extent of powers of State Assemblies in matters regulated by an Act of Parliament.
  • The verdict will help in avoiding a power tussle between the center and Delhi government, thereby upholding federalism.
  • It opens the gates for scrutiny of social media platforms by other States, which have more powers with respect to law and order than Delhi.
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