The Indian government refused to permit the release of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s passport because of concerns with respect to her personal security and keeping confidential the methods used to protect her. George Joseph reports from New York
The Government of India has refused to provide a copy of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s passport to the court as per the March 20 order of US District Judge Brian M Cogan in Brooklyn, citing security reasons.
In a case filed by the Sikhs for Justice, Judge Cogan had ordered Gandhi to ‘provide a copy of her passport, showing her most recent entry and exit stamps into and out of the United States, thus demonstrating that she was not in the country between September 2, 2013, and September 9, 2013.’
SFJ’s case hinges on the issue whether Sonia Gandhi was served a summons on Septembers 9, last year. The SFJ claimed that they served the summons to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York believing that Gandhi was being treated there.
But Gandhi, in a letter, told the court that she was not present even in the US during that time and she was never served with any summons by the SFJ.
The court said it was not sufficient to prove her absence and asked her to provide documentary evidence such as a copy of her passport.
‘This would appear to obviate both the need for any documents from the hospital --resolving defendant's medical privacy concerns -- and the need to rely upon a third party government agency like Customs and Border Protection’, the order stated.
April 7 was the last day to provide the evidence.
Attorney Ravi Batra, who represents Gandhi, in a submission to the court, said he promptly informed her about the court order, who in turn ‘relayed it to governmental personnel within the Government of the Republic of India.’
‘This past weekend we were informed that the Indian government has refused to permit the release of Mrs Gandhi’s passport because of concerns with respect to her personal security and keeping confidential the methods used to protect her.
‘It appears that much as our government’s Secret Service and Diplomatic Security agents need to keep their means and methods confidential, so too do the Indian authorities with respect to those they are charged with protecting,’ the submission said.
In her letter Gandhi said, “In matters of disclosure of my travels, which are contained in the passport document, the Government of India has informed me that they would not permit such a disclosure.
‘However, as I have nothing to hide, I voluntarily relinquish the plea of lack of personal jurisdiction. I may add that the present submission is without prejudice to the plea of want of jurisdiction in relation to the subject matter,’ Gandhi’s letter said.
The submission added, ‘Our client, however, wishes to be as cooperative as she can to arrive at a final determination of this matter, notwithstanding that she was not in the US, nor served with process.’
‘However, Mrs Gandhi does not posses the records of US government agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, or records of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center --given she was not there during the subject period.’
‘Accordingly, in an effort to bring this matter to an expeditious resolution, without the delays occasioned by requests to federal government agencies for the production of their records, or the need to burden Sloan Kettering with a hunt for non-existent records, Mrs Gandhi has informed us in writing that because she has ‘nothing to hide’ she is willing to withdraw her objection, by pending motion, to the defective/non-service of process and to the exercise of personal jurisdiction so as to permit the Honorable Court to address the substantive arguments of her motion.’
‘Mrs Gandhi has emphasised, however, that she in no way waives her objections with respect to the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction…,’ the submission said.
The SFJ filed a case against Gandhi accusing her of protecting the perpetrators of the Sikh massacre in 1984.
SFJ’s Attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said he will respond to the submission soon.
“This decision and action by Mrs Gandhi permits Judge Brian M Cogan to expeditiously deal with our pending motion that seeks dismissal of the case and inter alia, an anti-suit injunction against SFJ -- which entity can never legally be a plaintiff in an Alien Tort Statute or a Torture Victims Protection Act suit,” Attorney Batra told Rediff.com.
Image: Congress president Sonia Gandhi