Facebook whistle-blower may have to wait longer to appear before House panel

New Delhi: Facebook whistle-blower Sophie Zhang or other foreigners might have to wait longer to depose before a parliamentary panel since authorities are working on “new modalities” for foreign nationals appearing before House panels, a senior Lok Sabha official said on Monday.

Sophie Zhang offered to testify to parliament.

On November 1, 2021, the chief of the parliamentary panel on information technology, Shashi Tharoor, tweeted that he had sought Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s approval for Zhang’s deposition. While Tharoor’s announcement was not well-received by some BJP members in the committee, he neither received a green light nor a rejection of the request.

According to top officials the Lok Sabha Speaker met chairpersons of all parliamentary committees under the jurisdiction of the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2021, and several other leaders on February 4 this year. “On both occasions, the issue of calling foreign nationals was briefly touched upon. It was mentioned that new modalities should be framed before calling such witnesses.”

Officials pointed out that the rules, framed first on April 17, 1952, have undergone changes several times but the issue of representation of foreign nationals or foreign companies has gained prominence only in the recent past.

“Also, all Indians who appear before a House panel are bound by the law of the land but those rules won’t apply to a foreign national. Therefore, a holistic approach needs to be taken before calling a foreign national to depose before the House,” added another official.

The first official also pointed out that all issues related to the amendment of rules or fresh modalities would be taken up at the General Purpose Committee, “a panel where all chairpersons of standing committees are members.”