A day after she landed in the U.S. for a medical check up, a federal court in New York issued summons to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for “shielding and protecting” leaders and workers of her party who were allegedly involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The summons, issued on Tuesday by the Eastern District of New York, is in response to a class-action suit filed by ‘Sikhs for Justice’, a pro-Khalistan organisation that has in the last couple of years taken to filing cases in international courts against those Indian leaders (the Congress and the Akali Dal) who its feels protected those responsible for atrocities and extra judicial killings of Sikhs. In the recent past the organisation filed similar cases against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Union Minister Kamal Nath. Both the cases are pending in appeal.

The suit was filed on the SFJ’s behalf by Mohinder Singh and Jasbir Singh, two riot victims, under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The plaintiffs sought that Ms. Gandhi pay compensatory and punitive damages for her role in shielding Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and other Congress leaders. The onus is on the SFJ to serve the summons to Ms. Gandhi in person.

Meanwhile, the former Punjab Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, reacted to the pro-Khalistan group’s action by calling it an act of mala fide intention to seek cheap publicity. The accused, he said, were being tried in Indian courts and it defied logic to complain against someone who was not in government when the riots took place. Ms. Gandhi also did not have authority to punish the accused, he said in a statement.

The SFJ’s legal adviser, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, told The Hindu over phone from New York that they would serve the summons to Ms. Gandhi either at the Indian Overseas Congress (a branch of the Congress party) office in New York or at the U.N. Hague Service Convention in New Delhi, as both India and the U.S. are signatories to the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters. “The law suit is aimed at raising awareness in the international community about denial of justice to the victims and is a means of holding the parties in power accountable for gross violation of human rights against Sikhs,” he said.

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