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Sikh Genocide 1984

Sikh Genocide 1984: India’s ruling Congress Party objects to US jurisdiction in tort suit

May 10, 2012 | By

Sikh for Justice, a US based Human Rights Advocacy Group, Pursuing Case of Sikh Genocide.

Ludhiana, Punjab (Mary 10, 2012): As per information provided by Sikhs for Justice, on May 09, 2012 in a first ever lawsuit alleging human rights violations by Congress (I), the ruling political party of India, US Federal Court heard the oral arguments on the issues of Service, Jurisdiction and Congress (I)’s failure to timely respond to the summons before calendaring the case for trial.

Judge Robert Sweet opening the hearing commented that Congress (I) has not filed any defense on the merits of the allegations of conspiring, aiding, abetting, organizing and carrying out attacks on Sikh population of India during November 1984 while Congress (I) only challenged the US Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case of 1984 Sikh Genocide.

Attorneys from law firm of “Jones Day” argued that service of summons on the Congress (I) is flawed because Plaintiff’s attempt to serve the Congress (I) in India through Hague Convention is not complete as Party’s headquarter in New Delhi did not receive the summons and complaint; and March 04, 2011 service of summons on Dr. Surinder Malhotra, President of Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) in New York is inappropriate because Congress (I) has no relationship with INOC and Dr. Malhotra is not authorized to act on behalf of the Congress (I).

Plaintiff’s attorney submitted evidence to the US Court showing that on March 28, 2011, summons and complaint was delivered to the Central Authority in Delhi established by Government of India for receiving and serving judicial documents from foreign court as Hague Service Convention of 1965. Under Article 15 of the Hague Convention on Service Abroad, which has been signed by India and United States, service is considered complete once copy of Summons and Complaint is delivered to the Central Authority, pointed the Plaintiff’s attorney. In another case, Judge Sweet had ruled that holding that delivery of summons to Central Authority suffices the service on a defendant.

Defense counsel argued that Congress (I) cannot be sued as per the recent appellate court decision (Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum), which states that a “Corporation” cannot be sued under Alien Tort Claims Act for human rights violations by its members. While defending the filing of complaint against Congress (I) by the victims of November 1984 Sikh Genocide, the Plaintiffs attorney argued that there is difference between the status of a “Corporation” and “Political organization”. Unlike “Royal Dutch Petroleum”, Congress-I is a political party with a mass following and political network across India, which was used to organize attacks on Sikh population of the India during November 1984, so case filed against Congress (I) under Alien Tort Claims Act for human rights violations by its members is within the jurisdiction of the US Federal Court argued Plaintiff’s attorney.

Plaintiff’s attorney presented evidence showing that after receipt and acknowledgement of summons in March 2011, Congress (I) took series of legal actions to defend against the claims of human rights violations. Plaintiff’s attorney presented “Clerk’s Certificate” of October 06, 2011 issued by Ruby J. Krajick noting Congress (I)’s default, argued that defendant’s default is willful and intentional and thus warrants entry of default judgment by the court.

According to attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, Congress (I)’s complicity in November 1984 Sikh Genocide and its lack of defense to the allegations became obvious when it defended itself only on procedural issues related the case during oral arguments before the US Court. Congress (I) has no defense to the charges of organizing systematic killing of Sikhs during the first week of November 1984, added Pannun.

Since before US Court, the Congress (I) is taking the defense that a political party cannot be sued under Alien Tort Claims Act, the victims will amend the complaint to include the names of Sonia Gandhi and national leadership of the Congress (I) in their capacities as President and office bearers of the Congress (I)

In March 2011, “Sikhs for Justice” (SFJ) a human rights group along with victims of November 1984 Sikh Genocide filed a complaint under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) against Congress (I) for conspiring, aiding, abetting, organizing and carrying out attacks on Sikh population of India during November 1984.

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