US court issues summons against the prime minister for crimes against Sikhs ahead of his arrival to meet US President Barack Obama. Rediff.com's George Joseph reports from New York.
The Sikhs for Justice, a New York-based organisation, has filed a civil case against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who arrives in the United States today, 'for his role in crimes against humanity perpetrated upon the Sikh community in India' at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, which issued a summons to appear before it within 21 days after receiving the summons.
'The case is filed against Manmohan Singh as an individual and not as prime minister,' Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor, SFJ, told Rediff.com
Under the law, the plaintiffs have 120 days to serve the summons, and Pannun says the SFJ is seeking a court order to serve the summons during the White House summit between Prime Minister Singh and President Barack Obama on Friday.
Asked if it would be possible, Pannun says there is no harm in trying.
This comes in addition to the rally some Sikh organisations and management committees of gurdwaras in the US and Canada are reportedly planning to hold outside the White House during the Obama-Singh meeting.
The case against Dr Singh has been filed by Inder Singh, a citizen of India, and unnamed persons under the Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victim Protection Act for funding counter insurgency operations in Punjab, resulting in 'over hundred thousand Sikhs' being killed extra judicially by security forces.
Under the acts, the US federal courts have jurisdiction over cases of human rights violations even though the violations may have occurred on foreign soil, Pannun noted.
The suit alleges that Singh's culpability begins in 1991, when he took over as India's finance minister: 'Singh approved and financed the infamous practice of "cash rewards" to members of security forces for killing Sikhs through extra judicial means often in staged and fake encounters to curb the Sikh rights movement in Punjab,' the SFJ alleged.
More than $200 million was disbursed as cash rewards for the extra judicial killings, the SFJ claimed.
The 24-page complaint then targets Singh's tenure as prime minister since 2004, saying he 'has actively shielded and protected members of his political party who were involved in organising and carrying out genocidal attacks on the Sikhs in November 1984 resulting in the death of more than 30,000 Sikhs.'
Plaintiff Inder Singh alleged that he and his father were tortured by security forces, and that the authorities offered him money to work as an informant.
It goes on to note economic exploitation and other problems.
The plaintiffs have sought compensatory and punitive damages; Pannun said Dr Singh should be held accountable.
Earlier, the SFJ had filed a case in New York against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The SFJ served the summons at the Memorial Sloan Kettering, where Gandhi was believed to have been undergoing treatment.
The employees there said they did not touch it, and the police had taken it away. Pannun claimed the summons was served properly for all legal purposes.
Following the latest lawsuit, New York attorney Ravi Batra, who represents the Congress party, told the media, 'SFJ's red-carpet welcome, a lawsuit against Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the leader of a free, independent and sovereign nation, is headline grabbing while insulting law, decency and common sense.'