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US: Cong motion to dismiss anti-Sikh riots case denied

September 22, 2012 14:52 IST
United States Federal Judge Robert Sweet in New York ruled that the Indian National Congress has been 'properly served' with summons in the November 1984 anti-Sikh riots as per the Hague Service Convention.

Denying a motion of the Congress to dismiss the case for lack of service, the court held that the plaintiffs' evidence establishes that service was effected properly.

Since the filing of the lawsuit by Sikhs For Justice against the Congress for conspiring, aiding, abetting and carrying out attacks on Sikhs during November 1984, the party has been challenging US court's jurisdiction and service of process.

The judge in his 82-page ruling held that the plaintiffs (SFJ) have demonstrated that they complied with the Hague Convention procedures and that any failure of compliance was solely on the central authority to participate in the process.

In addition, the Congress was aware of the litigation and had actual notice of the suit. "Under these circumstances the INC was served in accordance with the Hague Convention and service is valid," concluded Judge Sweet.

At the same the judge made it clear that the plaintiffs have not yet established that the US court has personal jurisdiction over the case against the Congress. However, the judge granted the plaintiff's request for jurisdictional discovery to determine the relationship between Indian National Overseas Congress and the Indian National Congress.

"Everybody knows about the relation between the INOC and the Congress. Now the party has appointed a new committee. But it does not make any difference," Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ said.

Since the INOC is operating in the US, it is easy for the plaintiffs to prove that they can sue it, because it is part of the parent organisation (Congress). 'The plaintiff's allegations demonstrate a relationship between the INC and INOC to justify jurisdictional veil piercing," which is essential to determine court's personal jurisdiction over the Congress.

According to Pannun, since filing of the case, the rights group has been approached by hundreds of survivors, witnesses and victims of the attacks, who are willing to become party to the pending case against the Congress.  

The SFJ will file a motion before the US court to include additional plaintiffs and issue a 'class certification' in the pending case. The class will consist of resident and non-resident Sikh men, women and children who survived the attacks and their lawful heirs and claimants of those who died. The class will also consist of Sikhs whose homes, businesses, gurdwaras and personal property were damaged, according to Pannun.

Welcoming the US court's ruling, Karnail Singh Peermohammad, president, All India Sikh Students Federation stated that it is unfortunate that the Indian judicial system failed miserably to prosecute the perpetrators.

Babu Singh Dukhiyam, president of the National November 1984 Victims Justice and Welfare Society, said that victims of the attacks will submit detailed affidavits and evidence to the court.

Earlier the court had dismissed the case against Union minister Kamal Nath for not proper service. Pannun said they are appealing that decision.

George Joseph in New York