NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday upheld the right of the Delhi Legislative Assembly to proceed on grounds of breach of privilege and said it has the power to compel attendance by initiating privilege proceedings.
A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul said it cannot accept the plea that an Assembly must confine itself to the core function of legislation and this would be unreasonably restricting the role of an elected body.
The top court said that complexity of communal tensions and their wide-ranging ramifications is a matter affecting citizens of Delhi and it cannot be said that the Government of NCT of Delhi cannot look into the causal factors in order to formulate appropriate remedial measures.
Appropriate recommendations made by the State Government in this regard could be of significance in the collaborative effort between the Centre and the State to deal with governance issues, the apex court said.
"We are of the view that because of the pervasive impact of the riots, the Committee could legitimately attend to such grievances encompassing varied elements of public life.
Thus, it would be entitled to receive information and deliberate on the same to examine their bearing on peace and harmony without transgressing into any fields reserved for the Union Government in the Seventh Schedule," the bench said.
The apex court said that it is the State Government and the State Assembly which has to deal with the ground reality even in the dual power structure in Delhi.
"If we may say so, it is only the factum of Delhi being the capital and the sensitivities arising therefrom in respect of public order or police which has possibly persuaded these powers to be retained by the Central Government.
"We cannot say that informed deliberation inter alia on the best measures through which online mass hate and violence in their geographical jurisdiction can be addressed would not be within the Committee's area of competence as it would undermine the very purpose of a vital democratic polity," the bench said.
The apex court, however, said that the division of powers between the Centre and the State Assemblies must be mutually respected.
"The concept of a wide reading of Entries cannot be allowed to encroach upon a subject matter where there is a specific entry conferring power on the other body. It is this very principle which was in the minds of the Constitution makers, considering the wide diversity and the federal nature of the country," the bench also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy said.
The observations came in a judgement by which the top court dismissed the plea of Facebook India Vice President and MD Ajit Mohan challenging the summons issued by the Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony committee for failing to appear before it as witness in connection with the north-east Delhi riots matter.