October 24, 2013
Sonia Gandhi Contests Case Filed Against Her In US Court
Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has retained a New York law firm to represent her in a US federal court in a case for allegedly protecting the perpetrators of the November 1984 riots against Sikhs.
The case against Sonia Gandhi was filed by a US based human rights group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) last month.
Her lawyer Ravi Batra submitted to the court that she was at a hospital for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition and was not served with summons and also contested that the court had no jurisdiction over the matter.
However SFJ filed a service affidavit claiming alternate service to Gandhi on September 9, 2013 through the staff of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she had gone for her treatment. The summons were issued by the US court on September 3. The SFJ affidavit also claimed that a security agent was also handed over the summons as the court had allowed service of summons through hospital staff or security agents including those of the US Secret Service and the FBI.
While Judge Brian M Cogan did not allow plaintiffs' request for issuance of certificate of default against Gandhi, which was sought on the ground that Gandhi, after being served, had failed to answer the allegations of human rights violation within the time allowed by the federal rules of civil procedure, the plaintiffs got four weeks time to submit an amended plaint. Appearance of Gandhi's attorney in the court became a crucial point for the judge to deny the default judgment.
Confirming the development on phone from New York Sonia's counsel Ravi Batra told the TOI that they had told the court that the complaint was not sustainable and they had raised questions about the jurisdiction of the court on Sonia Gandhi. It is learnt that the arguments continued for over an hour in the court from both the sides.
Before the case moves to the jury trial the plaintiffs have to overcome the Supreme Court's ruling in Kiobel Case which bars claims for torts committed in foreign countries, unless a strong connection to the United States could be established. SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said that the plaintiffs in the case had been granted refugee status by the United States based on the persecution suffered from 1984 onwards and the likelihood of persecution in case of their return to India. "The refugee status of plaintiffs establishes their connection to the United States and gives them right to approach the US courts to be properly compensated for their suffering and losses," he added.
However, Ravi Batra in a communique to the TOI said that they would seek dismissal of the case with finality and would seek an anti-suit injunction against the SFJ and other appropriate relief