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Modi enjoys immunity from court summons: US

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modi in new yorkAhead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark visit, the US Friday made clear that as head of government, he enjoys “immunity and personal inviolability” and no US court summons can be served on him.

Senior administration officials previewing the visit told reporters that they were aware of a law suit filed against Modi by a human rights group in a New York court for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots as state chief minister.

While they could not comment on the case, officials said “sitting heads of government enjoy immunity and also personal inviolability” which means no court papers can be served on them during their stay in the US.

All heads of delegation to the United Nations also enjoy similar immunity, officials said.

Modi is set to address the UN general assembly Saturday before heading to Washington for bilateral summit meetings with President Barack Obama on Sep 29 and 30.

The New York-based American Justice Centre (AJC) had Thursday obtained summons against Modi from the US Federal Court for the southern district of New York in a suit filed with two survivors of what it called the “horrific and organized violence of Gujarat 2002”.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson slammed the suit as a “frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention” from Modi’s visit to the UN and his summit with Obama.

The spokesperson said the “allegations in the case are baseless and similar to other such allegations made in the past against the prime minister. A Supreme Court of India-monitored investigation has comprehensively examined and dismissed these allegations as baseless”.

“It is unfortunate that vested interests are raking up the matter only to vitiate the atmosphere during the visit,” he said.

Sikhs for Justice, another human rights group, which plans to try Modi in a “Citizens’ Court” in a park in front of the White House on Sep 30, has routinely obtained such summons against visiting Indian leaders, including then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.

Yet another group, Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) plans to show Modi black flags when he heads for the Indian-American community’s public reception at the Madison Square Garden in mid-town Manhattan Sep 28.

India Friday slammed as “frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention” through a case filed against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a New York court for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots as state chief minister.

Ministry of external affairs spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin, said that the case, filed on the eve of Modi’s visit to the US, is a “a frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention from the visit of the prime minister to the United Nations General Assembly and a bilateral summit with the president of the United States”.

The spokesperson said the “allegations in the case are baseless and similar to other such allegations made in the past against the prime minister.

“A Supreme Court of India-monitored investigation has comprehensively examined and dismissed these allegations as baseless,” Akbaruddin said.

“It is unfortunate that vested interests are raking up the matter only to vitiate the atmosphere during the visit,” he added.

Modi arrived in New York Friday on a five-day visit, during which he will address the UN General Assembly and also hold summit meetings with US President Barack Obama.

New York-based American Justice Centre (AJC) obtained the summons from the US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York in a suit filed with two survivors of what it called the “horrific and organised violence of Gujarat 2002”.

Filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), the 28-page complaint charges Modi with “committing crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture and inflicting mental and physical trauma on the victims, mostly from the Muslim community”.

AJC said it was providing legal support and advice to the survivors in their effort to hold “Modi accountable for his complicity in the violence”.

The survivors are suing Modi for the loss of lives and trauma in their families, and causing emotional, financial and psychological devastation in their lives.

“The Tort Case against Prime Minister Modi is an unequivocal message to human rights abusers everywhere,” said John Bradley, an AJC director. “Time and place and the trappings of power will not be an impediment to justice.”

The Alien Tort Claims Act, also known as Alien Tort Statute (ATS), is a US federal law first adopted in 1789 that gives the federal courts jurisdiction to hear lawsuits filed by US residents for acts committed in violation of international law outside the US, AJC said.

Sikhs for Justice, another human rights group, plans to hold a “Citizens’ Court” in a park in front of the White House to try Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, when he will be holding a summit meeting with President Obama.

The external affairs ministry spokesperson also said that the India-American community in the US “is also eagerly looking forward to the prime minister’s visit and has prepared a rousing reception for him”.

 

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